Pakistan SC orders probe into graft charges

  • Panel to look into allegations against Sharif’s sons

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday ordered an inquiry into allegations of corruption against family members of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as revealed in Panama Papers in April this year.

Known as Panamagate, an international coalition of more than 100 media outlets had published sensational wheelings and dealings allegedly carried out by famous people, including politicians and celebrities, worldwide. The leaks were based on 11.5 million records and 2.6 terabytes of information drawn from the internal database of Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca. The leaks informed the public how the famous and mighty use banks, law firms and offshore shell companies to hide their assets.

According to the papers, Nawaz Sharif’s children Maryam, Hasan and Hussain “were owners or had the right to authorize transactions for several companies”. The data leak also revealed the financial deals of over 200 Pakistanis, including the late Benazir Bhutto, prominent politicians and businessmen.

Since the Panama Papers were out, opposition parties, particularly Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), have been after the Prime Minister to probe the graft allegations against his family members. In fact, in recent days, Imran has intensified his agitation and prepared for a showdown with the government.

On the eve of the PTI-sponsored massive protest in the capital, a five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali heard the petition in the presence of several cabinet ministers, senior PTI leaders and media.

The Supreme Court said it was ready to appoint an inquiry commission headed by a judge, with the panel having all the powers of the apex court. It ordered the Pakistan Muslim League -N (ruling party) and petitioners (PTI) to present their Terms of Reference (ToR) for the probe panel. If both sides fail to come up with agreed terms of reference, the apex court will decide on ToR, the bench said, adding it could hear the case on a daily basis, if the situation warrants. The next hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

Meanwhile, both the PML-N and the protesting PTI said, “There is agreement on the commission.” Reacting to the court’s ruling, Imran Khan said the planned anti-government rally will now be marked as a Day of Thanks giving in Islamabad. PTI had announced the rally in Islamabad on Wednesday to force Sharif to resign for a fair probe into the scandal.

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