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Nawaz Sharif unseated by Army-backed judicial coup

Nawaz Sharif unseated as PM of Pakistan over corruption allegations

By Sandhya Jain -

July 28, 2017


Nawaz Sharif. Graphic courtesy Indian Express

S U M M A R YNawaz Sharif removed from the post of Prime MinisterThe Party has not yet chosen his successorSharif cannot contest elections for 10 yearsPanama Papers scalps its first major political victim

Pakistan’s now former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appears to have fallen victim to an Army-backed judicial coup. Sharif stepped down earlier today after the Supreme Court removed him from office in a unanimous verdict over corruption allegations involving close family members in the now famous Panama Papers leak. The petition was filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party leader, Imran Khan, who has close ties with the military establishment and is understood to be keen on early elections.

With this development, the Panama Papers leak, which exposed the financial dealings of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, has taken its first major political scalp.

What lends credence to the military-judicial nexus, in this case, is the fact that the Supreme Court on 20 April 2017 ordered setting up of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe allegations against the former premier and his family, which was to include representatives of the Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence.

Given that the crimes being investigated are white collar financial crimes, the Court-mandated inclusion of the ISI and MI is startling, unprecedented, and inexplicable.

The verdict has aggravated political instability in Pakistan, with some hinting that the judgment is political. Observers point out that Nawaz Sharif, disqualified from public office for ten years, has been ousted without a trial, let alone a conviction, a situation possible only with the tacit consent of military generals.

While it is undeniable that names of citizens holding illicit accounts in foreign shores must be investigated by the relevant authorities, Sharif’s removal has not followed due process. With this development, the Panama Papers leak, which exposed the financial dealings of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, has taken its first major political scalp.

According to the leak, Sharif’s children had bought property in London through offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands in the early 1990s. As all three (Maryam, Hussain, and Hassan) were then minors, the insinuation is that the purchase was allegedly made by Sharif. Maryam is respondent no. 6 in the case; Hussain no. 7 and Hassan no. 8. The former prime minister’s son-in-law, Capt. (Retd) Muhammad Safdar is Respondent No. 9.

Sharif claimed in parliament that his family wealth was legitimately acquired in the decades before he entered politics. His challenge now is to keep the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz united for next year’s elections and to resist, if possible Imran Khan’s pressure to dissolve Parliament and hold elections this year itself, a situation he expects will give an edge to his party.

The JIT was tasked to investigate if respondent No. 1 (Nawaz Sharif) or any of his dependents or benamidars owns, possesses or has acquired assets or any interest therein disproportionate to his known means of income.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has held Nawaz Sharif guilty of failing to disclose his un-withdrawn receivables (salary not collected) constituting assets from UAE-based Capital FZE in his nominations papers for the 2013 elections, and directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file a reference against the accused in an accountability court within six weeks and ordered that the trial be concluded within six months. This uncollected salary is from a period in which Nawaz Sharif was in exile. It is not clear why it was not collected, and if the former Prime Minister has been made a scapegoat on a technicality.

In Constitution Petition No. 29-30 of 2016 and No. 03 of 2017, Justices Ejaz Afzal Khan, Azmat Saeed and Ijaz ul Ahsan, held hearings between July 17 and 21 and delivered the judgment today (28 July 2017) in open court.

The judgment follows a judgment of 20 April 2017 in the said petitions wherein the Court had ruled, by a majority of 3 to 2 (Justices Asif Saeed Khan Khosa and Gulzar Ahmed dissented), that the main questions pertained to how Gulf Steel Mill came into being; what led to its sale; what happened to its liabilities; where did its sale proceeds end up; how did they reach Jeddah, Qatar and the U.K.; whether respondents No. 7 and 8 in view of their tender ages had the means in the early 1990s to possess and purchase the flats; whether the sudden appearance of the letters of Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani is a myth or a reality; how bearer shares crystallized into the flats; who is the real and beneficial owner of M/s Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited; how did Hill Metal Establishment come into existence; where did the money for Flagship Investment Limited and other companies set up/taken over by respondent No. 8 come from; where did the Working Capital for such companies come from, and where did the millions gifted by respondent No. 7 to respondent No. 1 come from.

This judgement ordered the setting up of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) headed by a senior Officer of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), and including representatives from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Security & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), and an officer each to be nominated by the Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Military Intelligence (M.I.).

The JIT was tasked to investigate if respondent No. 1 (Nawaz Sharif) or any of his dependents or benamidars owns, possesses or has acquired assets or any interest therein disproportionate to his known means of income.

The complete investigation report was submitted on 10 July 2017. Its main findings were Nawaz Sharif’s failure to disclose assets required to be disclosed under Section 12(2) of the Representation of the People Act, 1976; the overnight growth of assets of Hassan and Hussain Sharif despite all their business enterprises running in loss, and overall, the wealth and assets of the family were disproportionate to their known sources of income.

Thereafter, on 28 July 2017, a five judge Bench comprising Justices Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, Ejaz Afzal Khan, Gulzar Ahmed, Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Ijaz ul Ahsan, gave a unanimous verdict that led to Nawaz Sharif’s resignation and plunged Pakistan into a vortex of political instability.

Till the time of filing this story, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had not elected a new Prime Minister


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