Pakistani PM appears before Court panel

Allegations of corruption and money laundering

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif speaks to media after appearing before an anti-corruption commission at the Federal Judicial Academy. —AFP

ISLAMABAD : Pakistan’s prime minister yesterday denied allegations of corruption and money laundering during a nearly three-hour appearance before a Supreme Court-appointed team investigating his family’s offshore companies. Nawaz Sharif’s appearance before the panel at the Judicial Academy took place amid tight security after Sharif, his daughter, one of his sons and a younger brother arrived at the complex of judicial buildings in the capital.

Sharif’s daughter Maryam Sharif shared a photo on social media of her and her father smiling and appearing relaxed before entering. “My government, my family and I presented ourselves for accountability. There was neither any stain of corruption on us in the past and nor will there be any such charge against us in future,” Sharif told reporters after the hearing, which was closed to the public.

He said the allegations concern only his family’s personal and private business and not government corruption or fraud. It was unclear whether Sharif would again be summoned to appear before the panel. His younger brother Shahbaz Sharif is to appear before the panel next week. Sharif said he and his family would prove their innocence before the five-member panel, which will submit its report to the Supreme Court sometime this month. He said he looked forward to the Supreme Court’s final verdict but that he was ready to face a bigger court of 200 million people next year when parliamentary elections will be held.

Denied allegations
Sharif, who has previously denied allegations of abusing his authority to enrich himself, has been under pressure from political opponents to resign in the wake of reports based on documents leaked from a Panama-based law firm indicated his sons owned offshore companies. The panel probing the Sharif family holdings is comprised of senior investigators and representatives from the country’s two powerful spy agencies the Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence. Sharif’s two sons have already testified before the same panel, denying allegations regarding their family’s financial affairs. Sharif’s family and his party have alleged that some of the panel members are biased, accusing them of pressuring witnesses to testify against Sharif.

The panel has denied the allegation, countering with accusations that some Sharif party officials were threatening the panel and that some government officials were refusing to cooperate. Sharif’s spokesman Musadik Malik told Pakistan’s DUNYA news channel that Sharif had refrained from taking up his constitutional immunity to avoid appearing before the panel “because his hands are clean.” Thursday’s developments came nearly two months after the Supreme Court ruled there was not enough evidence to remove Sharif from office but ordered a further investigation into the allegations.

The court had been hearing petitions for months against the prime minister and his family, Sharif has faced corruption allegation since 2013, when he came to power after winning parliamentary elections. His political opponents want the prime minister to resign over allegations of tax evasion and concealing foreign investment. Sharif’s family has acknowledged owning offshore businesses, but says it was done with legal money.–AP


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