The Pakistan Supreme Court will today announce verdict on the high-profile Panamagate case involving Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif and his children. The judgement will have a bearing on the nation’s politics. International Consortium of Investigative Journalists had published news stories regarding Panama papers on April 4 in 2016. PM Sharif had addressed the nation over the issue and set up a commission to probe the leaks, according to a report. Finally the big day is here.
The judgement will be announced by a five-member larger bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa on slew of petitions seeking disqualification of PM Nawaz Sharif in the wake of explosive disclosures of the Panama Papers, reports The Express Tribune. The bench had reserved its verdict on February 23 and said that it will review all angles of the case in detail and then announce a verdict.
The bench had said that the Panama case verdict will be a long judgement. A member of the larger bench Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan had observed that the Panamagate verdict would not just concern the Sharif family, but it would, in fact, set in motion a law which would last for centuries. Justice Khosa had said that the court will decide the case only after considering the material submitted in the court and will announce its verdict in accordance with the law and the Constitution.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan, Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq and Awami Muslim League head Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had filed a petition in the apex court to disqualify Sharif for making alleged misstatements in his speech in the National Assembly on May 16 and in his address to the nation on April 5 last year, regarding investments made by his children in offshore companies that led to the purchase of four upscale flats in London.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Naeem-ul-Haq said that the party is ready to accept the apex court’s verdict on the Panamagate case. Echoing similar sentiments, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s leader Talal Chaudhry said, “We will accept the decision.”
Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who is one of the petitioners in this case, vowed to accept whatever verdict the great judges put forth, adding the further course of action will be discussed with Imran Khan.
Pakistan’s ruling PML-N is weighing the option of early election in case of an adverse verdict by the Supreme Court. “The option of early election (this year) is being discussed by the leadership in case of the apex court’s decision affecting Prime Minister Sharif,” a PML-N leader said yesterday. He said there had been two points of view in the party in case of an adverse verdict; one supporting the option of going into early election justifying that it would not let Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) exploit the situation and the PML-N would easily retain its position in next polls. The other group in the PML-N is against going for early election. “We should complete our tenure no matter what the decision is. The party should go for the option of giving the replacement of Sharif as early election will not be a good option,” he said.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said in case the decision somehow affects the premier, the PML-N should go into polls as per scheduled in 2018. “Nawaz Sharif will be more stronger sitting outside the prime minister’s house. Nawaz can give his replacement in parliament,” he said, adding Sharif “rules the hearts of the people” and Imran Khan has no chance to win neither in early nor in 2018 elections.”
The Supreme Court’s verdict on the high-profile Panamagate case could “make or break” the country’s most powerful political family ahead of election due next year. The case essentially seeks disqualification of 67-year-old Sharif over his alleged misstatement in his address to the nation on April 5 and his speech before the National Assembly on May 16, 2016.
Imran’s party is the main petitioner in the Panama case involving alleged illegal money laundering by Sharif in 1990s when he twice served as Prime Minister to purchase assets in London. The assets surfaced when Panama papers showed that they were managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif’s children. Meanwhile, Imran’s party hoped that Sharif will be disqualified after the Supreme Court’s verdict as “irrefutable evidence” has been presented against him in the court.
The Supreme Court had asked the government whether a Special Investigation Team (SIT) should be constituted to probe the offshore accounts of Indians revealed in the Panama paper leaks. A bench, headed by Justice Dipak Misra, asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) P S Narasimha to seek instruction on whether a separate SIT can be tasked to probe the Panama Papers leak, besides Multi-Agency Group (MAG) set up by the government to probe into the black money cases.
The court had asked Narasimha to file the seventh report of MAG within three days and took on record six reports filed in sealed cover with regard to the investigation in the black money cases. The bench, which also comprised Justices A M Khanwilkar and Justice M M Shantanagoudar, asked the ASG to inform about the decision and posted the matter for hearing in July. At the outset, the ASG said that investigation into the names leaked by a website was not simple and multiple agencies were probing and trying to ascertain the details.
The petition had alleged that Panama papers included the names of nearly 500 Indians, including celebrities and industrialists, who have allegedly parked funds in offshore accounts in transactions brokered by the law firm.