Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in the midst of a major probe for his children’s involvement in the Panama papers. This has resulted in a massive outburst from political parties in Pakistan, who are vehemently demanding to know why prime minister would hide and withhold major financial information from the election commission and the country.
Almost nine months ago the largest leaks, 11.5 million, in the global history named 214,488 entities and individuals across the continents for holding clandestine offshore business companies, kleptocracy, and evasion of international sanctions and taxes. Consequently, international political figures faced probes and were even pressured into leaving office. About four hundred Pakistani individuals were found to be involved in the said paper. The involvement of the Prime Minister’s children has not come as a shock to many in Pakistan but has dampened the collective morale.
Consequently, major political opposition actors have called upon the Prime Minister to step down until the Supreme Court hearing is concluded. Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf, PTI, stepped on the gas in April 2016, as the panama papers surfaced and exerted pressure on the government and the SC for a fair trial of the PM and his family, through storms of protests. Jamaat-e-Islami, JI, leader Sirajul Haq, is demanding the justification of the premier to stay in the office while resounding charges loom above. Pakistan People’s Party, PPP, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s acerbic stance made many waves however it has quieted considerably after Asif Zardari’s return.
Nawaz Sharif spokesperson and loyal party members maintain that he hasn’t committed any crime. However, the proceedings of the Panama case can damage Prime Minister’s vote bank. Further, PTI submitted evidence includes the 200-page 1998 report, initially submitted to then president Rafiq Tarar, by Rehman Malik detailing financial corruption charges against Sharif. This report helped PTI raise Islamabad’s political temperatures substantially.
The Panama Papers and subsequent court hearings are quite a complex issue and it will be prudent for the SC to carry out its course impartially. Fortunately the pace of the hearing has gained a fair momentum signaling that the smoke of political uncertainty will lift soon.
News media in the meantime is fixated on the Panama case. In Pakistan no certain laws bar the media from discussing the legal proceedings of trials underway. Such freedom has led to indulgence by the media. A magnitude of reports, talk shows, and opinions are devoted to the case. What fuels this media fire is all the speculations about the verdict are premature. Media’s role is to inform the masses and contextualize issues and suggesting solutions. Judiciary and media are towering pillars of the state. It will only be wise for media to support and respect the process and not to try and impinge upon it or colour public opinion unnecessarily.