Panama Papers: Nawaz Sharif is trying too hard to wipe off graft stains

Ahead of 2018 elections, Pakistan PM is cosying up with Afghanistan and Pakistani Hindus.

 |  3-minute read |   26-01-2017

Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif is desperately trying to consolidate his position by checkmating Pakistan Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and formidable adversary, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

Sharif suffered a major setback on January 25, when during the ongoing court proceedings in Panamagate case, the counsel for Maryam Nawaz deposed before the five-member bench of the Supreme Court that Maryam's signatures on the documents were forged.

Arguing for Maryam, the counsel said that PM Sharif was being dragged into the case. However, Justice Gulzar Ahmed opined that the apex court has not been asked to rule against Maryam Nawaz . The counsel, Shahid Hamid, further said that the allegation against Maryam needs to be proven by the petitioner and not the defendant.

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Nawaz Sharif is desperately trying to consolidate his position by checkmating Pakistan Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan People’s Party.

The case proceedings got murkier due to the allegation linking her to Minerva Financial Services Ltd – a company that was recently exposed by a German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung. Meanwhile, Justice Azmat Saeed directed the counsel to a 2004 email from Maryam in which she is thought to have owned up to being a beneficiary owner of the Neilsen and Nescol companies.

On their part, the judges felt that only a forensic expert would be in a position to compare the two signatures as the judges lacked the capacity to arrive at any conclusive opinion. In the same vein, the court brought out that the documents that had been leaked by the International Center for International Journalists (ICIJ) rendering the parties incapacitated to travel to Panama and check all documents with Maryam’s signature on them.

Intriguingly, the court also asked for a presentation of the will of Miyan Mohammad Sharif, Nawaz Sharif’s father, for further proceedings. Amidst the proceedings, legal experts and political skeptics assess that should the judgment results in a stranglehold on Sharif’s probity, the political consequences could possibly be disastrous as the country prepares for the next general elections in 2018. In the meantime, the PTI is adhering to its earlier stance of holding protest rallies across Pakistan on January 29 and February 5 to mount pressure on the Pakistan PM and his party PML(N), highlighting the Panamagate case.

Sharif, however, is drawing immense solace from the Nikkei Asian Review findings that his efforts to deliver on governance, economic reforms and security are likely to give his party a bigger majority in the forthcoming elections.

This has also bolstered PML(N)’s sagging morale by claiming "significant improvements" in Pakistan’s infrastructure and energy sector aided by a sliding trend in oil prices. Such claims could be doctored or sponsored by the state machinery as such findings are not so candid and forthright. In a separate development, Pakistan continues to warm up to Afghanistan to mend fences ostensibly to wean Kabul away from India’s influence. In this regard, on January 15, the Pakistani army chief general Qamar Bajwa called up Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani condoling the loss of lives in the recent slew of terror attacks in Afghanistan.

In an apparent bid to placate the Hindu minority in Pakistan, PM Sharif paid a visit to the Katas Raj temple complex assuring protection and safety to Hindus in particular and non-Muslims in general. The temple is regarded as one of the holiest sites for the Hindus and Sharif is trying his best to woo the minorities and draw maximum political mileage. It appears that such overtures on part of Sharif are clearly an attempt to divert the attention of the general public from the Panamagate scandal.

However, the upcoming protest rallies planned by the opposition, and the judiciary's not so lenient on the case, Sharif may not find it so easy to shrug off allegations of graft.

Also read: Pakistan pushing itself towards the abyss with its Afghanistan obsession

Writer

Shantanu Mukharji Shantanu Mukharji @shantanu2818

The author is a retired IPS officer who has held key positions in the Government of India handling sensitive security issues within and outside India.

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