Panama Papers: Checks and balances in Pakistan more stringent than Malta’s

Published: June 13, 2017 at 5:53pm

It’s a sad day when you have to face the fact that there are far more stringent checks and balances in Pakistan than there are in your own country, a member state of the European Union.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was discovered by virtue of the Panama Papers documents to have family-owned companies incorporated in Panama, has already been put through the mill of the Supreme Court, which then ruled that he could not be forcibly removed from office on that basis (he had refused to resign, prompting a year of ongoing controversy over the scandal).

The very same Supreme Court, however, set up a Joint Investigation Team to examine whether those Panama companies had been formed to conceal the proceeds of corruption. Prime Minister Sharif has been summoned to appear before the JIT on Thursday, causing Pakistan’s stock market to slump by 4%.

Nobody accused journalists or Opposition politicians of “trying to damage the economy” or of “spreading hate”, still less of “giving Pakistan a bad name abroad”.

The only person being accused of giving Pakistan a bad name is the Prime Minister himself.

Sharif has denied any wrongdoing, saying that the family wealth was acquired legally, but giving no explanation as to why it is held by companies incorporated in Panama.

The Joint Investigation Team set up by Pakistan’s Supreme Court to investigate the country’s own prime minister is made up of members of the Federal Investigation Agency, of other state agencies, and of military organisations, including the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

“It’s a litmus test of our laws that all citizens are equal before the law, so we believe that Nawaz Sharif should appear before the Joint Investigation Team in this case,” a spokesman for the Opposition Pakistan Movement of Justice (PTI) party said.

Quite differently to Malta, Prime Minister Sharif did not address a mass meeting of his supporters calling for their backing and saying that the Opposition wants to throw him into prison.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court began investigating the Prime Minister after the main political parties could not reach agreement on setting up a committee to inquire into the information contained in the Panama Papers. The prospect that no action would be taken caused the Pakistan Movement of Justice chairman, Imran Khan, to threaten mass protests that would bring Islamabad to a standstill.

Background note: Khan, a former cricket star once ranked as one of the most glamorous men in the world, was married to and has children by Jemima Goldsmith, youngest daughter of the late British billionaire Sir James Goldsmith. Her brother Zac Goldsmith has just been re-elected to the House of Commons. He was the Conservative Party candidate in last year’s mayoral election, which he lost to Sadiq Khan.

Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan

Imran Khan, chairman of the Opposition party Pakistan Movement of Justice