Sharif grilled in Panama graft case; accuses ‘unseen elements’ of plotting against govt
Islamabad, June 15 (PTI): Beleaguered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today said he and his family have done nothing wrong and lashed out at “some unseen elements” for plotting against his democratically-elected government, as he became Pakistan’s first sitting premier to be grilled by a graft probe panel.
“I have put myself and my family up for trial and provided the details of financial transactions made even before my own birth,” Sharif told reporters after a nearly two-hour-long questioning by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing his family’s alleged corruption based on documents leaked from a Panama-based law firm which indicated his sons owned offshore companies.
On April 20, the Supreme Court had constituted the JIT and empowered it to summon the prime minister, his sons and any other person necessary, to investigate allegations of money-laundering, through which the four apartments in London’s posh Park Lane area were purchased.
The 67-year-old PML-N leader said that these allegations have nothing to do with his tenure as the prime minister and are not charges of corruption.
“It should be noted that these allegations have nothing to do with my tenure as the prime minister and are not charges of corruption. They are charges against me and my family on a personal level about the family business,” Sharif said.
“My financial documents are already available with all relevant institutions including the Supreme Court. Today, however, I submitted them to the JIT as well,” he said.
He said as a former chief minister of Punjab and now third time prime minister, he approved projects worth trillion of rupees but “my opponents could not accuse me of any wrongdoing.”
Sharif said he and his family have repeatedly been subjected to merciless accountability but no allegation of corruption had ever been proved.
“We have underwent accountability in every regime and during the Pakistan Peoples Party regime in 1972 when I just had passed out from the college. Musharraf’s dictatorship also grilled us threadbare but could not find anything and only found a fake plane hijacking case to be registered against us,” Sharif said. “My opponents have levied charges of corruption against me, however, neither in the past, nor in the present, have any charges of corruption been proved against me and my family.”
Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, whose Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party spearheaded the case against Sharif, had demanded his resignation.
Sharif expressed confidence that the outcome of the ongoing inquiry would not be different as he and his family have done nothing wrong.
He accused “some unseen elements of hatching conspiracies against him and the democracy which would damage” the country.
“All conspiracies of our political opponents will fail,” he said.
Sharif had earlier this month accused “some people” of hatching conspiracies against his government, while his close aide openly pointed finger at the powerful establishment.
Last month, Pakistan’s powerful army withdrew a controversial tweet that had rattled the Sharif government over a media leak about a rift between the two power centres over fighting militancy in the country.
It was taken as the army’s defeat and an unprecedented criticism was ensued on social media against the army, which enjoys considerable influence over policy decisions in Pakistan.
The rift was a grim reminder of 1999 when then army chief Pervez Musharraf had ousted the government of Sharif. The army has ruled the country for much of its life since it gained independence 70 years ago.
Talking to reporters, Sharif said he appeared before the JIT to show that he respected the law and the Constitution.
Sharif said three generation of his family have subjected to accountability, as he has given details of family business since 1936.
He warned his opponents that there will be a larger JIT next year, comprising 200 million people, and they will decide who has worked for the betterment of the country, apparently referring to next year’s general election.
Earlier, a seemingly-relaxed Sharif arrived at the Judicial Academy – which has been temporarily turned into the JIT secretariat – amid tight security. According to official sources, over 2,500 security personnel have been deployed.
Sharif, who was accompanied by his eldest son Hussain Nawaz, brother Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and son- in-law Muhammad Safdar, waved at party workers and responded to their chants before entering the building. Sharif arrived without official protocol and security.
A large number of PML-N supporters had assembled near the JIT secretariat, waiving their party flags and chanting pro- Nawaz slogans.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif were barred from entering the FJA premises by the police.
The JIT chief Wajid Zia had summoned the prime minister to appear before the probe team on June 15 with all documents relevant to the case.
The JIT had questioned Sharif’s sons — Hussain and Hasan — last month over the family’s alleged improper business dealings. His eldest son Hussain was questioned five times while Hasan, the younger son, was summoned twice. It has also summoned Shahbaz Sharif to appear before it on June 17. The apex court last year took up the case and issued a split decision over allegations of money laundering when Sharif was prime minister in 1990s.
The JIT is bound to complete the probe in 60 days unless it is granted additional time.
The JIT comprises anti- corruption officials, along with members of the powerful spy agency ISI and the Military Intelligence.