End of the road for the Sharif family?

  • Is Sharif family leaving electoral politics of Pakistan for good? A detailed analysis of the JIT report

It is a very well-known fact in Pakistan that  Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family over the course of decades have been thriving and surviving through backdoor wheeling and dealings – first with the military establishment and later with the People’s Party. However, now the political landscape of Pakistan is in an aggressively changing mode. The Prime Minister seems to be on his way out from electoral politics in the very near future. Many other politically active and even some inactive members of the ruling family may face the same situation in the months or perhaps the years to come. The more the Prime Minister delays his resignation, the more moral authority he will lose to govern after the damning findings of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) set up on the orders of the Supreme Court in April this year.

Quality of Evidence against the Ruling Family

The JIT has come up with detailed findings backed by comprehensive evidence on how the ruling family has been engaged in white-collar crimes through systematic money-laundering since the 1980s, particularly from the 1990s.

The findings have been categorized as a book which reveals virtually everything in proper context with the background of almost each piece of evidence either procured from the archives of the country’s investigating agencies or gleaned from altogether new sources in and outside Pakistan. All old and new pieces of evidence clearly link the Prime Minister, his three children, his brother Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif and his younger daughter’s father-in-law and the Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and many others with money-laundering.

Never in the history of Pakistan has such a professional investigation been carried out, the quality and the detailed nature of which are self-explanatory and reveal what lies ahead for the Prime Minister and other members of the Sharif family.

The report has thoroughly exposed the hidden mechanisms, modus operandi and players the Sharif family used to illegally transfer money from Pakistan to abroad. With this modus operandi of money laundering in place, the ruling family set up offshore companies through which luxurious properties were bought in foreign destinations. This is how the members of the ruling family conducted their dubious business affairs abroad, none of which they made public until a few days before the Panama Papers scandal last year, and that too, the JIT reveals now, was based on a pack of lies. The JIT  points out that Sharif family’s business has not been in good financial health over the years.

Therefore, the investigators referred legally prosecutable presumption under the National Accountability Ordinance and the Law of Evidence to conclude that the money was siphoned off from Pakistan – obviously through kickbacks from mega development projects – something the Sharif brothers have been blamed repeatedly by their detractors to have received behind the scenes to build up their business empire abroad. Under these laws, members of the Sharif family are guilty until they prove themselves innocent by providing evidence to the contrary. However, their failure to do so has now landed them in the kind of trouble they have never faced whenever they came into power after general elections with the tacit backing of the military establishment which they now love to point their fingers at.

What Makes Ruling Party Cry Foul?

What must be shocking for the Prime Minister is the emergence of new evidence the JIT has gleaned to leave the ruling family without a leg to stand on in the courts of law – something which explains why the government is politically crying foul. This is more of a damage control measure to survive in the political arena than anything else. Therefore, the ruling party is floating all kind of conspiracy theories, disseminating political rhetoric and engaging in the traditional blame game against its political rivals to prove them to be more corrupt than the Prime Minister and his family. They do so on the presumption that common people would not be able to understand and ascertain the clear, logical and convincing legal facts and evidence on the basis of which the Supreme Court is likely to disqualify  Prime Minister soon for lying to the nation by hiding his assets abroad. But that is just the tip of the iceberg of the political and legal implications the Sharif family is all set to face in the weeks and months to come. Here are the specific details behind the tantrums of the ruling party!

Why Ouster of the Prime Minister is Imminent

The most critical piece from the viewpoint of the evidence is JIT’s ability to get hold of the verified copy of correspondence between Mossack Fonseca, the money laundering company for Sharif family, and Financial Investigation Agency of British Virgin Islands which officially confirmed that Maryam Nawaz is the legal owner of London-based expensive properties purchased by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in her name through two Panama-based off-shore companies Nielsen and Nescoll from 1993 to 1995. She was not only dependent on Nawaz Sharif in early 1990s but he had also showed her as dependent on him in 2011’s tax returns.

In yet another direct piece of new evidence, the JIT has found that the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been overseeing Capital FZE – a UAE based offshore company. Under the law of the land, Sharif was bound to show his assets in his tax returns and declare them in his annual statement of assets and liabilities with the Election Commission. The company was operative till 2014. His son Hassan Nawaz was also part of this offshore company. That is not all. The JIT also found that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lied to the nation that Gulf Steel Mills, the mother of the business empire of the Sharif clan, was sold in 1980 for a sum of nine million dollars. It was the seed money with which Sharif family later claimed to have expanded their business which helped them to buy properties in London.

These new evidences would provide ample legal grounds to the three-member  Supreme Court bench to straightaway disqualify the Prime Minister for five years from contesting general elections under the famous articles 62 and 63 of the constitution of Pakistan. These constitutional articles are shortcut legal routes to disqualify any member of the Parliament if he is found lying with the nation or hiding his/her assets. Two judges have already disqualified him on similar grounds in their judgement on April 20, while three other judges among a panel of five had withheld their verdict until further investigation was conducted.

In addition to his disqualification, the Supreme Court is likely to accept JIT recommendations to order National Accountability Bureau to try him in the Accountability Court on the charges of corruption and corrupt practices, an offence punishable by 14 years of imprisonment.

Other New Evidence against Prime Minister 

 The entire defense of Prime Minister’s son Hussain Nawaz was that his late grandfather Muhammad Sharif chose him to inherit the whole family business. The grandfather first set up a steel factory in Dubai, then in Qatar and lastly in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the early 2000s. He added that the sale of steel mills in Saudi Arabia helped Hussain Nawaz to purchase properties in London in 2006.

On the request of Sharif family, Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al-Thani, Qatari prince through an affidavit made a failed attempt to show his part in the money trail to the properties Sharif family frivolously claimed to have purchased in London in 2006.

Now the JIT unravelled the entire mystery revealing through its investigation that no financial transactions of sale and purchase of mills exists.

The new damning evidence reveals that it was actually the Prime Minister who personally operated and funded at least part of the investment to operate the steel factory in Jeddah. Nawaz Sharif himself instructed Al-Rajhi Bank in Jeddah to immediately transfer 750,000 Saudi Riyal from his account No 46260801 3344552 to his son Hussain Nawaz’s account with the same bank just seven years ago.

The JIT believes that this transaction actually establishes a direct nexus between Hussain Nawaz and his father who used his son as a conduit to launder money and subsequently receive it through remittances in order to get a legal cover. The JIT has recommended the Supreme Court to hold the trail of his two sons as co-accuseds along with their father on money laundering charges.

Shahbaz Sharif, Ishaq Dar likely to be clubbed with Prime Minister

Ishaq Dar,  Finance Minister in a confessional affidavit in 2000 before a magistrate provided specific details on how money was channelled illegally from Pakistan to abroad on behalf of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, Chief Minister Punjab. Later Dar retracted his statement and argued that he did so under duress from the then military regime. Subsequently, Lahore High Court set aside his confessional affidavit. The NAB under the influence of Sharif family played a real legal trick by not filing an appeal with the Supreme Court against the unusual High Court verdict. Two Supreme Court judges in their dissenting note on April 20 this year ordered the NAB to file an appeal with the top court requesting to waive-off time-bar condition to hear an appeal against High Court ruling. Three other judges withheld their verdict pending further investigation.

Now the JIT has found more collaborating incriminating evidence to substantiate Dar’s confessions and has recommended the three other judges of the Supreme Court to reopen the entire case. The top court may accept the JIT recommendation and if it happens, their political fate would be sealed in a matter of time.

Forgery and Perjury charges against Sharif Family

Under the law, Sharif family was bound to come up with documentary evidence to prove that they purchased properties in London through legitimate sources of income. Failure to do so, the JIT said, misled Sharif family to forge documents one after the other and hence indulged themselves in perjury which is a criminal offence punishable by seven years in imprisonment.

The JIT has found that Maryam Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz forged the documents to show that she was a trustee to the properties in London in 2006 and not the real owner of flats which her brother wrongly claimed ownership of. The forgery was designed to avert legal implications against Prime Minister that she was dependent on her father when he discreetly purchased properties in London in early 1990s.  This is not the whole story.

Similarly Tariq Shafi, Prime Minister’s cousin, the JIT said, provided fabricated, tampered and misleading affidavits in his failed attempt to provide the money trail with which properties in London were purchased. Prime Minister’s son in law captain Safdar was also found involved in a forgery of a somewhat similar nature.

Javed Rana

Javed Rana

With over two decades of journalistic experience including a long stint with Al-Jazeera, Javed Rana is witness to countless monumental developments taking place in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Javed focuses on non-state armed actors, legal, political & geostrategic issues.