The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday rendered a 3-2 judgment in the Panama Papers case, directing the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the origin and transfer of the Sharif family’s finances.
A five-judge bench of Justices Asif Saeed Khosa, Gulzar Ahmed, Ejaz Afzal Khan, Azmat Saeed and Ijazul Ahsan was delivering its verdict on petitions filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Jamaat-e-Islami, the Watan Party and the All Pakistan Muslim League. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, sons Hasan and Hussain Nawaz, son-in-law Muhammad Safdar and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar were the respondents in the case.
Announcing the verdict, Justice Khosa said the ruling had two dissenting notes by himself and Justice Gulzar. He said the dissenting judges had ruled against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but the majority had favored the formation of a JIT due to lack of sufficient evidence to oust the prime minister, granting Sharif a temporary reprieve.
“A thorough investigation is required,” Justice Khosa said, announcing the decision. In the dissenting notes, the judges termed Sharif “dishonest” and said he should be disqualified, but they were outnumbered.
The 540-page judgment notes that the Federal Investigation Agency and National Accountability Bureau did not conduct their jobs properly and specifically cites the NAB chairman as being a barrier to the case. It says the JIT should include officials of NAB, FIA, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence. The JIT, which will be formed within the week, will be required to submit its final report within 60 days of formation and will have to submit progress reports every 15 days.
“We respect the court verdict… It will be implemented in all its spirit,” Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said immediately after the verdict.
The controversy started with the publication of the so-called Panama Papers last year. The 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca documented the offshore dealings of many of the world’s rich and powerful. Among the global elite implicated were three of Sharif’s four children—his daughter and presumptive political heir Maryam, and his sons Hasan and Hussein. At the heart of the matter is the legitimacy of the funds used by the Sharif family to purchase several high-end London properties via offshore companies. Sharif’s ruling PMLN party insists the wealth was acquired legally through family businesses in Pakistan and the Gulf. But lawyers for PTI chief Imran Khan argue the paper trail for the funds is nonexistent, and say the onus is on Sharif to prove his relatives did not engage in money laundering.