ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s May 16 statement in parliament regarding the Panama Papers leaks and the stance he has taken in the Supreme Court’s proceedings are the same. This was asserted by lawmakers addressing a press conference on Tuesday who said revelations regarding his family’s business in Qatar should not be considered a ploy.
Three cabinet members — Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Minister for Information Technology Anusha Rehman and Minister for CADD Tariq Fazal Chaudhry — and MNA Daniyal Aziz addressed the press conference to elaborate on the government’s stance on Panamagate that surfaced in April this year.
They said the PM had chosen not to publicly disclose details of the source of income with which his family had purchased property worth billions in London and established offshore companies.
When asked why the prime minister, in his speech in parliament, had not disclosed his family business in Qatar which his lawyer had unveiled during the court proceedings in the case, Mr Rafiq said: “The prime minister had deliberately not shared details of the money trail regarding his family business in the United Arab Emirates because he knew that once the issue went to court, that would be the proper forum to disclose the details of his family business,” adding that the prime minister had said in his speech that he and his family members had not taken a single penny out of Pakistan for business purposes.
“The prime minister’s stance in parliament is similar to what his lawyer presented before the apex court on Tuesday,” he said.
Giving details of the Sharif family’s business in Qatar, the minister said Mian Muhammad Sharif, the prime minister’s father, had established two steel mills in then East Pakistan and in West Pakistan.
He lost the one in Bangladesh and the factory in Pakistan was nationalised by then prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1972.
“At that time, Mian Sharif decided to establish his business in the UAE, using a loan taken from the BCCI bank which he had used to set up a steel mill called Gulf Steel Mills,” he said.
The railways minister added that later Mian Sharif had pulled out his shares from the firm and set up another steel mill in Qatar as a joint venture with the royal family of Qatar.
Since his grandson Hussain Nawaz had been declared Mian Sharif’s legal heir, the property was transferred to him.
Mr Rafiq said the king of Qatar had written a letter that was produced in the Supreme Court as evidence of the Sharif family’s business abroad. The letter was proof that the PM’s family had not transferred money from Pakistan. The attested letter from the former prime minister of Qatar should be taken seriously, he stressed.
“Now it is Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan’s turn to provide proof of how he had set up an offshore company and purchased property in London,” the minister said. Mr Khan would have to disclose the means used to purchase his Banigala residence, he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Ms Rehman said during the Supreme Court’s proceedings on Tuesday, PTI’s lawyer Hamid Khan had presented three volumes of ‘evidence’ against the prime minister which the court had termed “Arabian Nights tales”.
He then withdrew two of them. “This was the evidence Mr Khan had used to provoke the entire nation against the government and to create an atmosphere of instability since April,” she said.
Ms Rehman said the evidence presented by the PM’s children was open for the public to peruse and that the government was ready to answer any questions about them.
Mr Aziz said that earlier Mr Khan had claimed that he had presented himself for accountability, “now he’s looking for a way out”.
The MNA demanded to know why Mr Khan’s lawyer had sought time to prove his innocence.
He said Mr Khan had given a false declaration regarding his Banigala house. He had said that he had given it to his ex-wife Jemima Khan; however, she had presented a statement saying that she had returned it to him after their divorce.
Mr Chaudhry said Mr Khan had been declared a proclaimed offender by an antiterrorism court, for attacking the PTV office and beating up a senior police officer during the 2014 dharna, “yet he is free to go wherever he pleases, even to the Supreme Court”.
Published in Dawn November 16th, 2016