KARACHI: Qatar’s ambassador to Pakistan Saqr bin Mubarak Al-Mansouri on Saturday waded into the controversy involving Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family when he categorically said that his government had nothing to do with the letters of a Qatari prince to the Supreme Court hearing the Panama Papers case.
Lawyers for the Sharif family had submitted to a five-judge larger bench of the court two letters of Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani, a former prime minister of Qatar — first on Nov 15, 2016 and the second on Jan 26. He stated in the letters that the late Mian Sharif had invested 12 million dirham “cash” in the Al-Thani family’s business in the 1980s, which eventually led Hussain Nawaz to acquire the four Park Lane flats in London.
While opposition parties, including the Pakistan Peoples Party, had questioned the authenticity of the letters and said that the letters could not be considered the evidence of a money trail, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan had declared them “false”, saying the letters had been sent to rescue the prime minister in the Panamagate case.
Imran claims Doha embarrassed by ‘fake letter’ in Panama Papers case; minister argues PML-N never said Qatari govt sent letters
Against this backdrop, the Qatari envoy appeared in an Aaj News programme on Saturday and said that his government was neither involved in the Panama Papers case nor had anything to do with the letters.
The ambassador’s comments prompted the PTI chief to say that the government of Qatar was embarrassed by the controversy. This pushed the government into a further defensive mode as it said it had never claimed that the letters had any links with the Qatar government.
In his opening remarks, the host of the programme said that Ambassador Al-Mansouri had “selected” his television network to present the “perspective” of his government over the Panama Papers case.
However, over 30-minute-long interview contained only about a five-minute part in which the diplomat spoke about the letters and his government position, insisting that the Panama Papers case was Pakistan’s internal matter.
Asked about his government’s policy regarding the case, he said: “Actually this case is an internal matter [of Pakistan]. Qatar’s policy is to not intervene in the internal affairs of any country.”
The host asked him whether he was saying that his government had nothing to do with the case or with the letters, the ambassador said: “Yes, yes, as I mentioned to you it is very clear....my government is not involved in this issue.”
He went on to say that he had no knowledge about the issue as he only read about it in newspapers.
Asked whether the two letters were sent through the Islamabad embassy or directly to the Pakistan Muslim League-N leaders, he said: “My answer is clear. My government is not involved in this issue. This is something private or something personal.”
When the host pushed him to get a clear reply, the Qatari envoy said: “It [the letters] is not come through formal channels.”
Imran Khan, who has been accusing the prime minister of money laundering to establish overseas companies in the name of his children, tweeted: “Clearly Qatari govt embarrassed by this fake letter written by acknowledged business partner of Sharifs, who is also named in Panama Papers”.
“This letter from Sharif’s business partner got him, amongst other largesse, a Rs 200 bn Port Qasim deal. Corruption breeding corruption,” he said in another tweet.
On the other hand, Minister of State for Information Maryam Aurangzeb told the media that the statement of the Qatari ambassador actually vindicated the PML-N’s stance as it never said that the Qatar government was involved in sending the two letters to the apex court.
She said that the prime minister had not been named in the Panama Papers and those who had been named were already clarifying their position.
The two letters said that the investment of 12m dirham “was made by way of provision of cash” in the real estate sector by Mian Sharif in 1980s and at the end of 2005, it was agreed that an amount of approximately $8m was due to Mian Sharif in accordance with the latter’s wishes. This amount was settled in 2006 by delivering bearer shares of Nescoll and Nielson Enterprises Limited, which had been kept in Qatar until then, to Hussain Nawaz’s representative.
Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2017