We asked the creator of Calibri to weigh in on the JIT debate
The joint investigation team (JIT) investigating the ruling Sharif family's financial history may have found many 'anomalies' in the respondents' statements; but none quite captured the public imagination like the fact that key documents submitted by Maryam Nawaz were found to be 'faked' — given away by their use of the Calibri font.
Dawn.com reached out to Lucas de Groot, the designer credited with creating the font, to weigh in on whether the font was available in February 2006 (when the document was signed) or earlier, as claimed by Maryam Nawaz supporters, or 2007, as claimed by pretty much the rest of the internet.
A query, addressed to de Groot through his company LucasFonts, was answered by Lieselotte Schäfer, a company representative, who said:
"As discussed with Lucas, here is what we can say about the Calibri release dates: Lucas started designing Calibri in 2002 and sent the final source files to Microsoft not before March 2004."
The reply goes on to add although beta versions of the Microsoft Vista Operating System (codenamed Longhorn) were subsequently made available — LucasFont said Microsoft could say when exactly — "early Windows betas are intended for programmers and technology freaks to see what works and what doesn’t."
"As the file size of such operating systems is huge, it would have been a serious effort to get," the reply added, possibly to address the question of whether such a beta version of a software may have been used by whoever drafted the documents for Maryam Nawaz.
"As far as I know, the first public beta versions of Calibri were published in 2006. We do not know the exact date for this public release date [but] it is [still] extremely unlikely that somebody would copy fonts from a beta environment to use in official documents," it adds.
The first public beta version, according to a Wikipedia entry, was released on June 6, 2006 — close to four months after the papers were said to have been signed by Maryam Nawaz.
LucasFont's statement also holds weight given that beta versions of software are unfinished and in testing phase. Only people with an extra-ordinary interest in computer software usually subscribe to their use, as they potentially hold numerous undiscovered glitches that may interrupt their usage at any given time.
"Office 2007 was the first product officially using Calibri on a large scale," the email continues. "It was made available to volume license customers (resellers) on November 30, 2006, and later to retail on January 30, 2007, [at] the same [time as the] respective release dates of Windows Vista."
In a separate email, de Groot, the font designer himself, said that while in theory it would have been possible to create a document using Calibri in 2006, the font would have to be obtained from a beta operating system, "from the hands of computer nerds".
"Why would anyone use a completely unknown font for an official document in 2006?" he went on to question.
"If the person using Calibri was such a font lover that he or she had to use the new Calibri, then he or she should be able to prove that other documents were printed with Calibri in 2006, and these prints should be in the hands of other people as well," he wrote.
De Groot said in his opinion the document signed by Maryam Nawaz was "produced much later, when Calibri was the default font in MS Word".
Though the forensic expert engaged by the JIT had made basically the same argument — that the font was not available publicly before January 31, 2007 and therefore unlikely to have been used in an official document dated 2006 — there were some who continued to insist that the font had been in circulation before that and there was nothing suspicious about Maryam Nawaz using it.
Among these was Barrister Zafarullah Khan, who appeared to mock the forensic expert's opinion on Tuesday evening during a press conference. During his brief talk, Khan sarcastically directed whoever was making the claim to: "Please Google and see that [the font] was released in August 2004."
There were indications that the Wikipedia entry for the Calibri font had also been changed repeatedly to reflect a similar claim till Wikipedia itself placed a hold on editing the page till July 18 "or till editing disputes are solved".