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New chapter in Panamagate saga begins today

Updated July 17, 2017
The head of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) Wajid Zia (C) arrives at the Supreme Court to present a final report of the investigation probing allegations of money laundering against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family in Islamabad on July 10.— AFP/File
The head of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) Wajid Zia (C) arrives at the Supreme Court to present a final report of the investigation probing allegations of money laundering against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family in Islamabad on July 10.— AFP/File

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: As the Panama Papers case enters its final round today (Monday), both government and opposition parties are pinning their hopes on the Supreme Court.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is shoring up its legal defence, while its arch-rival, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), has vowed to either “celebrate” or “chase the PM all the way to Adiala Jail”.

In Lahore, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif continued consultations with his legal and political teams on Sunday regarding the objections the ruling family will file against the report of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

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The prime minister, who arrived on Saturday afternoon, suspended all other engagements and spent nearly the whole day in consultative meetings to frame the family’s stance and devise a strategy to counter political rivals.

There was no official word on the consultations, or the composition of the legal team that would defend the Sharif family in court.

But talking to Dawn, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said that Khawaja Harris, Akram Sheikh, Salman Akram Raja and Barrister Zafarullah would be on the team representing various members of the ruling family.

Sharif meets legal advisers; PTI threatens to ‘chase PM to Adiala Jail’

Barrister Zafarullah, the PM’s special assistant on law and justice, will remain part of the team even though, in the words of a ruling party senator, his briefing to the PML-N parliamentary party meeting in Islamabad the other day did not impress some.

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The law minister said that contrary to rumours, the ruling party would submit its objections to the JIT report on Monday.

He claimed that the PML-N had concrete evidence to prove untrue the JIT’s assertions about the absence of scrap shipment records from Dubai to Jeddah; the allegation that Nawaz Sharif owned an offshore company, and that he had been drawing a salary from the same until 2014.

“We’ll present evidence that part of the scrap had been hauled by trucks through land routes and the other shipped. The evidence will include documents issued by the port authorities where the scrap was offloaded.”

Similarly, he argued that the PM’s legal team would also prove that the company used to obtain a UAE work visa for PM Sharif was neither an offshore firm, nor did the prime minister draw a salary from it.

Claiming that the conspiracy against the government had been exposed, PML-N MNA Daniyal Aziz told Dawn the government had unearthed a letter, sent by the JIT to Saudi authorities, which was dated from before the JIT’s formation.

He said PTI Chairman Imran Khan had alluded to the conspiracy himself when he said that Nawaz Sharif’s “legal funeral” would have been held last Eidul Azha, “but the butcher had run away”.

“Who was the ‘butcher’ mentioned by Imran Khan, I ask?”

Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir said the government would request the Supreme Court to invoke Article 10-A of the Constitution, which guaranteed justice to all.

Ruling out any rifts or cracks in the ruling party, and said the entire party backed Nawaz Sharif and his family in the Panamagate saga.

PTI plans

Speaking to party members in Islamabad on Sunday, the PTI chief asked his workers to either prepare for celebrations, or be ready to chase Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Adiala Jail after his wrongdoings had been exposed.

He warned that the government might try to attack the apex court and army, because these were the only two state institutions have had not been hijacked by the PML-N through the appointment of their “own people” to key posts.

“I warn you that largest ever gathering of people in the history of the country will pour out onto the streets if you try and malign the Supreme Court and army,” Imran Khan said, addressing PM Sharif.

“The whole country is ready and watching the proceedings of the Supreme Court. You will have no place to hide; you will not be able to fly to Jeddah because Adiala Jail is your final destination.”

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2017