ISLAMABAD: The two main opposition parties on Saturday once again lashed out at the Sharif brothers for portraying themselves as “political victims” and describing the ongoing investigations in the Panama Papers case as a conspiracy against democracy and the country.
“Leaders are always held accountable in democracy; the Sharif family appearing before the joint investigation team [JIT] does not mean they are being victimised,” said Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan while talking to reporters at his Banigala residence on the occasion of induction of a Pakistan Muslim League-Q leader from Khanewal, Ahmed Yar Hiraj, into his party.
Responding to the speech delivered by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif after appearing before the Supreme Court-appointed JIT probing the money laundering charges levelled against the Sharif family, the PTI chairman said the Panama Papers leaks were not a conspiracy, but “it’s a curtain raiser for the long-winded, limitless tale of loot and corruption”.
The family has not been held accountable before, claims Imran
Terming Shahbaz Sharif the “Mulzim-i-Aala (chief accused)”, Mr Khan said the Sharifs were striving to gain public sympathy by portraying the ongoing investigations as a conspiracy against their family and the government.
“Who are they fooling by wearing a Panama hat and mafia suit?” he asked in apparent reference to Mr Sharif’s headgear and dress that he wore at the time of his appearance before the JIT.
He claimed that 12 corruption cases were pending against Nawaz Sharif whereas his younger brother Shahbaz had been implicated in one case.
“An impression is being created that the Sharif family has been held accountable repeatedly, which is inaccurate,” he said, adding that the Sharifs were in fact being held accountable for the first time.
“The Sharif family’s self-victimisation is beyond understanding. Their lucid claim of facing accountability for decades is hilarious and absurd at the same time,” he said.
The PTI chief reiterated that the entire nation stood by the Supreme Court and the JIT and would not allow anyone to attack institutions like the PML-N did in the 1990s.
He claimed that the entire premise of the Sharif family’s argument in the Panama Papers case was based on a “fake letter” from a Qatari prince who was not ready to face the JIT despite orders.
“Now that the case is almost over because the Qatari prince has refused to come to Pakistan, the ruling party has started attacking the JIT by telling its members that their children would have no place to live in Pakistan,” Mr Khan remarked.
He claimed that the Sharifs had lost their case and their final destination would be Adiyala Jail in Rawalpindi.
Referring to an interview of the prime minister’s wife, he said that only Kulsoom Nawaz had spoken the truth and confessed that the London flats were owned by the Sharif family. The family concealed their assets and despite facing “atrocities” and “victimisation”, managed to build an empire of billions, Mr Khan said.
He also lashed out at a media group for allegedly carrying out “biased coverage” whenever a key member of the Sharif family appeared before the JIT, after receiving favour in the form of advertisements paid for by public funds.
Meanwhile, in response to the Punjab chief minister’s remarks, the Pakistan Peoples Party said the “godfathers” had been exposed and “Shahbaz Sharif will not be able to hoodwink the people of Pakistan anymore”.
In a statement issued by the party’s media office, PPP Senator Saeed Ghani said that in the times of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto the Ittefaq Foundries was nationalised and its production was increased ten-fold after nationalisation.
Mr Ghani alleged that military dictator General Ziaul Haq later returned the Ittefaq Foundries to the Sharif family “for one rupee” and also doled out Rs100 million to the family. He urged the family “not to tell lies” to the nation.
He said the family also imported new machinery in the garb of scrap which was caught at the Karachi port. There was never an accountability conducted against the Sharif family as during General Pervez Musharraf’s time the family had fled to Saudi Arabia with 40 trunks at night, the senator added.
Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2017