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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif alleged on Thursday that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in the Panama Papers case was still groping in the dark, saying it did not even know about the “charges” against him and his family members.

“I inquired from the JIT on what basis are they carrying out investigations and what are the charges against me?” the prime minister said while talking to the reporters on board the aircraft while returning to the country at the end of his two-day official visit to Tajikistan.

“The JIT has been searching for the charges after its formation,” said Mr Sharif while expressing the hope that he would come out clean after the investigations as he had not committed any corruption or received kickbacks.

“There is nothing to fear as our hands are clean,” he said. He regretted that he was facing accountability despite making this country a nuclear power.

“Instead of receiving appreciation for making the country a nuclear power, conspiracies are being hat­ched against me,” said Mr Sharif, who had appeared before the Supreme Court-constituted JIT last month. He added that his government had been facing conspiracies since the 2014 sit-in by the PTI. He expressed the hope that this time too his opponents would fail miserably.

When the prime minister was talking to the reporters on his way back from Dushanbe, his spokesman Dr Musadiq Malik was lashing out at the JIT at a news conference at the official Press Information Department.

Musadiq Malik alleges JIT looking for approver against Sharifs under a ‘pre-determined plan’

In his news conference, which he held soon after the media talk by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan, Dr Malik alleged that the JIT was looking for an “approver” against the Sharifs under a “pre-determined” plan.

“Either the JIT members have a pre-determined plan or they will try to seek extension at the end of the 60-day deadline,” the prime minister’s spokesman said while raising “serious doubts” and objections over the functioning of the JIT. He also alleged that the JIT had not been working in line with the directives of the Supreme Court which “smacked of a conspiracy”.

He indirectly accused the JIT of trying to pave the way for an undemocratic set-up in the country when he equated the anticipated move of the JIT to seek more time with the promise made by former military dictator Gen Ziaul Haq of holding elections in the country within 90 days after his taking over the power in 1977.

“It seems the JIT wants to prolong the matter like 90 days of 1977” so that the PML-N could be maligned till the next general elections in the country, he added.

The spokesman alleged that the JIT was putting pressure on individuals to become an approver against the Sharif family members. He said the prime minister’s cousin Tariq Shafi, who had appeared before the JIT, was intimidated and forced to retract his statement and affidavit given in favour of the Sharif family. He said Mr Shafi was threatened that he could be sent to prison for 15 years if he did not withdraw his statement.

Dr Malik said the JIT was trying to find an approver like Masood Mehmood, who had turned against former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his statement later led to Mr Bhutto’s hanging. He claimed that the official telephones of the Prime Minister House were being taped and the Twitter and WhatsApp accounts of the PML-N leaders were being hacked.

The prime minister’s spokesman also criticised the JIT for not verifying the documents submitted to it by the Sharif family members as well as the PTI. He also lashed out at the JIT for not visiting Qatar to record the statement of the Qatari prince, who had written three letters to the JIT members in which he had verified the claim made by the prime minister about the purchase of the London flats.

He said the cabinet had given state authority to the JIT to collect evidence from abroad under the mutual legal assistance agreements with the foreign governments, but the JIT members did not bother to visit abroad to verify the authenticity of the documents. He said the JIT members should have visited the UK for verification of the documents of the London property.

In response to the PTI’s criticism of the PML-N leaders for expressing reservations over the JIT functioning despite distributing sweets at the time of its formation, Dr Malik said they had distributed sweets after the apex court’s decision believing that the JIT would work within the legal parameters and in accordance with the Supreme Court’s directives.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2017