by M.A Noon
In hearing the Panama Papers Case (the PP Case), the Supreme Court of Pakistan (the Supreme Court) had constituted a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to inquire into claims of financial impropriety made primarily against the now ex Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, and his family. Following the submission of the investigation report by the JIT (the JIT Report), the Supreme Court did not take long to issue a final judgement in the PP Case – Nawaz Sharif was disqualified from holding public office for being dishonest under the umbrella of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (the Constitution), and references were directed to be filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) before an accountability court against Nawaz Sharif and his children, amongst others. The Supreme Court held that Nawaz Sharif was “dishonest” for failing to disclose his source of income through Capital FZE (a Dubai based company Nawaz Sharif was receiving a salary from), while submitting his nomination papers for the general elections in 2013.
Since the submission of the JIT Report on 10th July, 2017, the members of the ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), have graced our television screens to criticise it every day (without fail). In amongst their usual histrionics, the underlying theme seemed to develop that Nawaz Sharif, and PML-N (by association), were somehow the victims of a blatant conspiracy which us, the gullible general public, could not figure out without their signposting.
Spokespeople of PML-N claimed that the JIT Report could not have been prepared in the two months or so that it took the JIT to submit it in the Supreme Court. They claimed that the abundant quantity of evidentiary documents attached to the JIT Report could not have been collected and collated within this timeframe without alleged prior preparation spanning well over a year. It was contended that as part of this conspiracy, the contents of the JIT Report (including evidentiary documents) were already available to the JIT upon its formation and that the decision to oust the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was made well in advance to the institution of any legal proceedings.
No spokesperson of PML-N has put forward a shred of evidence to support these cries of conspiracy. The accused persons were given ample time and opportunity by both the Supreme Court and the JIT to submit their complete financial records to defeat claims of financial impropriety made against them. What they chose to do, instead, was to submit false evidence, doctored deeds and fake documents – all the while aggressively asking what they were accused of. In attempting to develop the political martyr narrative, Nawaz Sharif, his family and his party forgot to actually defend themselves properly. Cries of conspiracy cannot be expected to be believed by the general public when you yourself are guilty of the submission of doctored evidence to the JIT formed by the Supreme Court.
The absurdity of the claims of conspiracy is apparent even upon cursory examination. Let us envision this “conspiracy” scenario for a moment: “Someone” went through all the trouble of keeping meticulous records of the financial affairs of Nawaz Sharif and his family, waited all these years for an association of international journalists to hack the servers of a law firm in Panama and then leak that information, planned for the petitioners in the PP Case to approach the Supreme Court, accounted for the formation of the JIT by the Supreme Court and then planned for the final decision of the Supreme Court’s larger bench in the PP Case. This is a remarkable sequence of events that no one can have reasonable control over, quite simply due to the involvement of so many variables. It is just not possible. This claim of conspiracy seems more likely to be an instance of the “lion” who cried wolf.
Notwithstanding claims of conspiracy, Nawaz Sharif and his children should have been able to submit their complete financial records to the JIT and the Supreme Court. Failure to do so is not the JIT’s fault. The JIT cannot be blamed for taking an adverse view towards a failure to submit necessary documents (a serious shortcoming), or towards the submission of doctored evidence (the catalyst for several offences by itself). Considering the documents of the company Capital FZE, the evidence which ultimately led to the demise of the Government, omitting to submit such evidence does not reflect well on Nawaz Sharif and his children and they can have no complaints towards any adverse action taken on this basis.