Panama case: what’s next

The joint investigation team (JIT) probing the Panamagate graft case against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family has submitted its final report to the Supreme Court. According to the details, the JIT recommended that the National Accountability Bureau open a reference against the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his sons Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz, as well as daughter Maryam Nawaz as it found huge mismatches in the stated and actual wealth of ruling family. The JIT also noted that the defendants in Panama case could not provide enough evidence to sustain their claim of providing money trail being probed and that the details provided by them were not satisfactory by the team. The three-judge panel charged with implementing the findings report of JIT ordered all parties to appear before court on Monday 17 July so that the case may proceed.

Panama case and the subsequent drama that ensued it has proven to be a much bigger issue in Pakistani politics than earlier thought. Given that the discovery was made by Pulitzer-winning international journalists and not an opposition party, this corruption case is far more legitimate and impactful for Pakistan. Moreover, the involvement of Supreme court and then JIT comprising of members from six top departments of government and security agencies has so far ensured that this case is more than just a trick to oust the PM Nawaz Sharif as claimed by the government ministers who tirelessly conducted press conferences and media talks claiming that the whole issue was merely a political gimmick against their rule. It has become clear that this is not the case. It has always been a rhetorical claim of every opposition leader that corruption and financial misdeeds is prevalent in each and every sector of society but it sounded more like a political claim rather than something that can be proven in a court of law. Now it has become crystal clear the how rampant is this cancer even in the top most and respected circles of power in the country.

Supreme court should now hear this case on top priority basis and try to establish an actionable offence base in regard to the findings and recommendations by JIT. The revelations made by FIA and Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) officials about the role that SECP chairman Zafar Hijazi played by tampering the official records and closing the inquiry into the Sharif family’s Chaudhry Sugar Mills Limited by backdating. This is only the tip of iceberg and the top court has now responsibility to unveil the evil nexus of corruption that has always lurked in the shadows. Anyone found involved on covering the trails should be brought to books no matter how high they rank in government or bureaucracy. The demand made by opposition for the resignation of Prime minister has become more legitimate in the wake of JIT findings and must be acted upon if Nawaz Sharif wants to strengthen the institutions instead of merely sticking to the premiership.

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Mian Bilal