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ISLAMABAD: After denying for weeks that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had association with any offshore company, the government has admitted that his UAE travel permit was part of documents submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) ahead of the 2013 general elections.

In doing so, the government has taken the stance that PM Sharif’s iqama, or work permit, was never concealed and was mentioned in his nomination papers submitted to the ECP.

The admission came in documents submitted by his counsel, Khawaja Harris, to the court on Saturday.

On Friday, before proceedings were adjourned in the Panama Papers case, Mr Harris had sought permission from the three-judge Supreme Court bench to submit written replies to new points raised by the petitioner’s counsel regarding Capital FZE.

The court allowed him to do so and consequently, an application was submitted on Saturday, in which the prime minister admitted that he had not only taken up employment with Capital FZE, a UAE-based company, but had also obtained a work permit for this purpose.

Claims iqama was enclosed with documents submitted to ECP before 2013 polls

“The iqama and [the prime minister’s] employment with Capital FZE is reflected in the copies of his passport annexed with the nomination forms submitted for the general elections 2013… there being no separate column in the nomination forms for any such information to be provided by the candidate contesting the election,” the reply said.

Earlier, when the JIT report revealed that he was chairman of the Capital FZE board, PM Sharif’s team had raised legal objections on the JIT report and its members.

But in his fresh reply, he tells the apex court that his son, Hassan Nawaz, was “owner, director, secretary and the authorised signatory” of Capital FZE.

“[Nawaz Sharif] was neither a shareholder in, nor a director or a secretary of Capital FZE. Nor was he ever an authorised signatory of Capital FZE,” the reply stated.

According to the reply, being ‘chairman of the board’ was merely a ceremonial office, acquired in 2007, during his time in exile, and had nothing to do with the running of the company.

“Similarly, [PM Sharif] did not withdraw a salary of 10,000 UAE dirhams. Thus, the salary shown in the employment contract in effect never constituted an ‘asset’ for Respondent No 1,” it stated, emphatically denying that PM Sharif received any salary from the company.

The application said the premier’s ceremonial status came to an end with the dissolution of Capital FZE — a process which began in July 2013 and ended in July 2014.

The work permit, the reply said, was issued for a period of three years, and was last issued in 2012, but lapsed in 2014 upon the dissolution of Capital FZE.

This was also the defence mounted by the PM’s loyal aide Daniyal Aziz, who maintained: “Nawaz Sharif has not concealed anything and details of the iqama were available with the copy of his passport presented before ECP,” the PML-N MNA told a press conference on Sunday.

But at an earlier occasion, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb had categorically said that PM Sharif had never been associated with any offshore company.

“JIT has given a wrong impression that Nawaz Sharif concealed his iqama, and a statement of the attorney general on the matter is also available with the Supreme Court,” Mr Aziz said on Sunday.

Before the 2013 polls, he added, political opponents were given a time by the ECP to raise objections, but none were raised at that time.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2017