The Panama Puzzle

What is the Panama case? The protracted Panama probe has certainly become the talk of the town since 3rd April, 2016 when the Sharif family was allegedly reported to have links with eight off shore companies.  Seeking to penetrate what mysteries the Panama controversy contains does not seem prudent, therefore it is better to scrutinize the cause and effect of this matter. The panama papers, a global investigation reveals that the world’s most rich and famous have set up off-shore companies in far flung jurisdiction to hide their assets.

The panama investigation contains information based on more than 11 million leaked files and reveals a variety of distinguished people who use offshore companies. According to the panama leaks, these companies are allegedly used by the world’s most affluent people to facilitate financial fraud and embezzlement, tax evasion, bribery and arms deal etc. It may not seem astounding to many that the leaks have disclosed some alleged facts about Pakistani politicians and some well-known personalities. Some notable names exposed by the Panama papers include Benazir Bhutto, Rehman Malik, Senator Osman Saifullah’s family and the much admired Sharif family. However, one view implies that Panama papers do not necessarily suggest evidence of dishonesty. As stated by The Guardian, “using off shore structures” is certainly legal.

The Panama controversy has thrust the Sharif family into the limelight as Prime Minister’s daughter and his two sons allegedly controlled shell companies which enabled them to buy property in London. The Panama issue gained much attention when Prime Minister Sharif last year suddenly left for London for a cardiac checkup amidst mounting pressure and speculations. It was rumored that the Prime Minister would not return until the Panama investigations were complete. It was also speculated that the PM, during his stay in London sought the support of Former President Asif Ali Zardari.  In the meanwhile, PTI chairman Imran Khan also arrived in London.  Khan disclosed his intention into hiring a financial investigative agency to trace the allegedly offshore holdings of the Sharif’s.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, prior to his five day tour to London for medical checkup, had announced his willingness for the formation of a judicial commission.  In his address to the nation, he said that his family was ready to face a probe into his “alleged finances in the off shore tax –havens.” Soon after his return from London, the Prime Minister In another address to the nation said that he would resign “if proven guilty.”

One of the major developments in the Panama issue last year was the Petition filed by PTI with the Election Commission of Pakistan against PM Nawaz Sharif on 24th June, 2016. After three days, PPP also petitioned the Election commission of Pakistan to disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family. Jamiat –e – Islami  (JI) also filed a petition with the Supreme Court on  4th August, 2016. However this petition did not mention Nawaz Sharif’s name directly. The Apex court four days later returned the petition calling it “frivolous.” Likewise, PTI filed a petition with the Supreme Court seeking PM Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification not only from Prime Minister’s office but also from the National Assembly.’

The series of petitions filed last year was followed by a huge protest outside Nawaz Sharif’s house at “Raiwind-White Star.” Several thousands of PTI supporters from all over Pakistan joined Imran Khan to stage a sit- in protest in order to participate in the accountability movement. On 30th October,2016  Imran Khan called on his party workers to lay siege to Islamabad until the Prime Minister presented himself for accountability.  After accepting petitions from Tehreek-i- Insaaf, Jamaat- i- Islami, Jhamoori Watan Party and others, the Supreme Court began the proceedings. The Supreme Court asked the government and the protesting parties to present their ToRs, and “decided to form an enquiry Commission on Panama.”  Consequently, Imran Khan called off his plan to lock down Islamabad.  On 7th November, 2016 Nawaz Sharif’s children submitted replies to Supreme Court which was seen as a milestone in the” Panamagate case.”

In furtherance of the Panama case, the Supreme Court of Pakistan formed a Joint investigation Team (JIT) to Probe the Sharif family in the Panama leaks case. The JIT consists of six members from National Accountability Bureau (NAB), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Inter-services Intelligence (ISI), military and the Security and Exchange Commissions of Pakistan (SECP).  The JIT had been given “a secretariat in the Federal Judicial Academy.” Prime Minister’s elder son Hussain Nawaz has appeared before JIT several times for the probe.  Hassan Nawaz on his first trip to the Judicial Academy brought with him three volumes of documents to support his case. The JIT has grilled both Hussain and Hassan for hours and hours before summoning the Prime Minister to appear on 15th June, 2017.

What caused the names of Pakistani notables including the Sharif’s in the Panama leaks still remains a mystery. After examining the Panama case it seems that the young generation will be left confused about what to believe and what not to believe. Another effect of the Panama controversy is that Imran Khan has certainly emerged as a leader with immense perseverance and dedication.  The Pakistani nation must stand up for the dispensation of justice and the rule of law.

What is your take on the Panama case?

An enigma that continues to puzzle the nation

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