- Imran Khan says Panama Papers is incontrovertible evidence of Sharifs’ corruption, calls for probes into ruling family’s business affairs
- Pervaiz Rashid says leaks prove Nawaz Sharif has no assets abroad, says Khan should apologise for maligning Sharifs
The ruling Sharif family on Monday appeared defiant as they responded to allegations regarding the ownership of companies outside Pakistan as Panama Papers exposed secretive assets of the world’s most powerful personalities.
Opposition leaders, including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah continued to plough into Sharifs for hiding ‘corruption money’ in tax havens as government ministers tasked with damage control tried to spin the conversation away from Sharifs’ culpability.
“Panama leaks and ICIJ have made no allegations of wrongdoing against the Sharif family. None of the corporations mentioned are owned or run by Nawaz Sharif,” said a statement issued by the Sharif family.
“All of the corporations owned by the Sharif family (by Hussain and Hasan Nawaz) are legal and financially sound,” it added.
“Hussain Sharif and Hassan Sharif have been diligently filling their company reports and tax returns in their legal and tax jurisdictions,” the statement said.
It added that “Maryam Nawaz Sharif is not a beneficiary or owner of any of these companies nor has she received any income or financial benefits that warrant tax disclosure or implications.”
PERVAIZ RASHID TO THE RESCUE:
Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid strongly rejected allegations of corruption on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family.
Talking to reporters in Islamabad, he said the prime minister has no foreign assets.
He said his two sons are doing businesses abroad like hundreds of thousands of other Pakistanis doing the same in other countries.
The minister said their assets are in accordance with the law as they pay the taxes and have established their businesses through white money.
Rashid said the prime minister has given unprecedented mega projects to the country and even his worst enemies could not prove any corruption against him.
He said given the challenges faced by the country including terrorism, mudslinging should be avoided for the better future of the country.
IMRAN KHAN’S AHAA MOMENT:
Opposition leader Imran Khan issued a swift call for action against Sharif after the release.
“Our stance has been vindicated again as Sharif’s wealth stashed abroad has been exposed,” he tweeted, adding the country’s accountability watchdog, tax authorities and election commission “must take action”.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad , Khan said that the Panama leaks cannot be referred to as a conspiracy against the rulers as Panama is a place where all the corruption money is deposited.
He said that he has been raising his concerns in this regard for the last 20 years but now the looters have been exposed, “Thanks to God Almighty”. He said that there should be no doubt about the credibility of this information as the data has been retrieved straight from the data-bank.
Khan said that Maryam Nawaz had said that no one in the Sharif family had assets outside the country whereas Sharif family possesses assets in other countries under the name of their children, Khan said.
He added that Hussain Nawaz knew that the news was breaking which is why he had admitted that Sharif family operates companies in other countries. Khan added that Sharif family is scrambling to explain the source of their ill-gotten wealth.
Imran Khan claimed that the revelations in the Panama Papers vindicated his party’s stance and reiterated his call for fresh elections and probes by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Board of Revenue, and the Election Commission of Pakistan.
‘WE’RE ONLY AVOIDING UNNECESSARY TAXATION’:
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz Sharif told a private news channel that his family had done “nothing wrong” as he defended his family members’ ownership of offshore companies.
“Those apartments are ours and those offshore companies are also ours,” he said in comments aired by local TV channels Monday.
“There is nothing wrong with it and I have never concealed them, nor do I need to do that.”
“It is according to British law and laws of other countries and is a legal way to avoid unnecessary tax via offshore companies.”
He left Pakistan in 1992, he added, and therefore is not a resident, adding Pakistani tax law “says that if you are not staying in Pakistan for more than 138 days, then you are not required to declare your assets”.
Regarding Khan’s call for the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to investigate, he said “we voluntarily present ourselves before it or any other judicial and investigative institution in Pakistan”.
And he issued one final dig at Khan, calling on him to provide “proof that the prime minister has not declared his assets”.
“If he is successful in that then we are ready to accept our fault and undergo punishment,” he said.
MARYAM NAWAZ DEFENDS SELF:
Meanwhile, Maryam Nawaz, who had earlier said that there were no properties under her name outside the country, took to Twitter, after revelations that she was one of the owners of an offshore company operated by the Sharif family to deny her involvement in anything illegal.
“As stated earlier, I do NOT own any company/property abroad. My brother has made me a trustee in one of his corporations which only entitles me to distribute assets to my brother Hussain’s family/children if needed. Nothing more than what my brother has already explained,” Maryam said in two of her tweets.
She said facts were being distorted by certain news outlets in an attempt to implicate the Sharif family.
“The info provided by leaks does NOT say any wrongdoing was involved. Distortion is willful that a couple of media channels are using to settle scores.”
INFO MINISTER WANTS IMRAN TO APOLOGISE:
Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid took exception to Imran Khan for accusing the Sharif family of stashing money abroad and being involved in corrupt practices.
Reacting to Imran Khan’s scathing criticism of the PM’s family, Rashid said even the Panama Papers – a reference to a massive leak of documents of the law firm Mossack Fonseca based in the tax haven of Panama – prove Khan’s allegation wrong as Nawaz Sharif has no assets in foreign countries.
“Both the children of Nawaz Sharif file their tax returns in accordance with the law, and do business abroad like children of common Pakistanis do,” he said.
“The documents do not say that Nawaz Shairf and Shahbaz Sharif have properties outside the country,” the minister said.
“Imran Khan’s allegations are wrong; he should express regret,” he said adding that those who live in glass houses should avoid throwing stones at others.
“We do not want to discuss things relating to Imran Khan. He could knock the doors of international courts or approach the National Accountability (NAB) over the Panama leaks,” Pervaiz Rashid said.
“What has Imran Khan given to the nation except a sit-in, which caused delay in the visit of the Chinese president and the start of China Pakistan Economic Corridor Project,” the information minister added.
The minister claimed former prime minister Benazir Bhutto targeted businesses of Nawaz Sharif only to admit that the latter was not involved in wrongdoings.
The information minister said Imran Khan’s blood relations themselves are living in a foreign country and getting the education there. He said Imran Khan should seek apology over levelling baseless allegations of corruption.
THE LEAKS THAT MAY LAUNCH A THOUSAND PROBES:
Earlier on Sunday, the Panama leaks whipped a storm of controversy over off-shore wealth, ensnaring political leaders, sports figures and underworld members across the globe in a snowballing scandal.
The leak, comprising 11.5 million documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, shows how some of the world’s most powerful people have secreted away their money in offshore jurisdictions.
An investigation into the documents by more than 100 media groups, described as one of the largest such probes in history, revealed the hidden offshore dealings in the assets of around 140 political figures — including 12 current or former heads of state.
The vast stash of records was obtained from an anonymous source by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and shared with media worldwide by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The documents, from around 214,000 offshore entities, came from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm with offices in more than 35 countries.
Among those named are three of Nawaz Sharif’s four children — Maryam, who has been tipped to be his political successor; Hasan and Hussain, with the records showing they owned real estate in London through offshore companies administrated by the firm.
There are more than 200 Pakistanis who have been implicated; they include lawyers, lawmakers and some people from the judiciary.