- Nawaz Sharif says he will form judicial commission led by a former Supreme Court judge to probe his family for financial wrongdoing
- Asks political leaders hurling allegations against him and his family to present evidence against them before judicial commission
- Lashes out at PPP for ‘ruining’ Sharif family’s businesses over the years
While Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson announced his resignation on Tuesday, becoming the first political victim of a mushrooming worldwide scandal over hidden offshore financial dealings exposed in the so-called Panama Papers, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose three children also feature in the explosive investigation, has announced that he is forming a high-level judicial commission to probe his family for any wrongdoing – something that many in Pakistan believe will be a fruitless exercise leading nowhere.
The judicial commission will be led by a retired Supreme Court judge, said the premier while addressing the nation on state television.
Responding to criticism by his opponents, the PM said that certain individuals are involved in point scoring and are digging issues from decades ago.
“My family has faced a barrage of accusations,” said a visibly displeased Nawaz.
The prime minister also invited all politicians hurling allegations against him and his family to present evidence of any financial wrongdoing before the judicial commission.
“This commission will investigate the matter and give its verdict on what the actual facts are and how much weight these allegations have,” he said.
Nawaz, while explaining the start of his family business said, “My father started working in Lahore 25 years before the creation of Pakistan, and by the time of independence, Ittefaq Foundries had already achieved success.”
He added that another industrial plant was also established in Dhaka, but was lost to the fall of East Pakistan in 1971.
“On Jan 2, 1972, Bhutto took over the foundry in Lahore, and hence our assets were lost in mere moments.”
“My family was not involved in politics till much later, as such, even before I got into politics, we were an established industrial family.”
Explaining further, the prime minister stated that his father established another industrial plant in Makkah, following the military coup in 1999. The plant was “later sold, and my sons invested the funds into their businesses”.
Nawaz said that he has never mixed his family’s business with his functions as the Prime Minister of Pakistan and his focus remained on taking the country forward on the path of progress and prosperity and to end the era of darkness.
He said though his aides were of the opinion that since there was no allegation against his person in the Panama Papers and he had done nothing unlawful or illegal, he was not under any obligation to respond to such allegations. However, Nawaz said he thought it was better to take the nation into confidence and share the history of his family’s business concerns spanning decades.
Nawaz said that their industries were contributing millions of rupees to the government in the form of taxes.
He said that in 1989, a ship named Jonathan was not allowed to offload raw material for their factory for a whole year, incurring a loss of Rs 500 million which he said was more than Rs 50 billion under the current value of rupee.
He said they were forced to go into exile and the government machinery was misused against them and their businesses.
“We had to face one-sided accountability, but we never faltered and emerged triumphant on every judicial forum as none of the allegations were ever proved against us,” he added.
Nawaz said that his son Hassan Nawaz had been residing in London since 1994 and Hussain Nawaz in Saudi Arabia since 2000.
“My sons are doing business in their countries of residence as per local laws. I’m surprised by the logic under which they are being criticised for doing their lawful businesses,” he said, adding that people who amassed wealth through unfair means neither owned companies nor kept the assets in their names.
The prime minister said that despite repeated attempts to destroy the family’s Ittefaq Foundries, his family repaid every penny of their debt amounting to around Rs 5.75 billion.
“Our family never got written off even a penny of the principal or mark-up amounts. It will not be wrong to say that we have repaid even those debts which were not owed by us,” he remarked.
“I fully understand the motives behind the fresh wave of allegations, but do not want to dissipate my energies on it,” the prime minister said at the end of his 14-minute recorded address.
The data leak has revealed financial wheelings and dealings of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family, among many others, including world leaders.
The data from the Panama Papers, available on the website of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists — one of around 100 news organisations and 300 journalists that worked on mining the data simultaneously — also reveals the offshore holdings of members of Prime Minister Sharif’s family.
According to documents available on the ICIJ website, the PM’s children Mariam, Hasan and Hussain “were owners or had the right to authorise transactions for several companies”.
Mariam is described as “the owner of British Virgin Islands-based firms Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited, incorporated in 1994 and 1993”.
On one of the documents released by ICIJ, the address listed for Nielsen Enterprises is Saroor Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The document, dated June 2012, describes Mariam Safdar as the ‘beneficial owner’.
According to ICIJ, “Hussain and Mariam signed a document dated June 2007 that was part of a series of transactions in which Deutsche Bank Geneva lent up to $13.8 million to Nescoll, Nielsen and another company, with their London properties as collateral.”Hasan Nawaz Sharif is described as “the sole director of Hangon Property Holdings Limited incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in February 2007, which acquired Liberia-based firm Cascon Holdings Establishment Limited for about $11.2 million in August 2007”.
But the papers are not necessarily evidence of wrongdoing. According to The Guardian, using offshore structures is entirely legal.