April 3, 2016
Panama Papers leaked; Sharif family under spotlight
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists made nearly 11.5 million secret documents public. The documents contained confidential attorney-client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities, with the source of these leaks being a Panamanian financial law firm, Mossack Fonseca. Eight offshore companies were reported to have links with the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Opposition parties jumped at the opportunity to register their protests and mobilise supporters to rally against Mr Sharif.
April 5, 2016
Under-pressure PM announces probe
Realising that silence may deepen the crisis, PM Sharif went on PTV to address the nation and clear the air. The prime minister began his speech with a subtle acknowledgment of the fact that he was using state apparatus to address personal matters and excused himself for that. Visibly concerned by the potential unrest the leaks could cause in the given political climate, Mr Sharif said he was open to the formation of a judicial commission to probe his family’s alleged finances in offshore tax havens.
April 10, 2016
Imran wants CJP to head commission
PTI chief Imran Khan asked the government to form an inquiry commission led by the then serving Chief Justice of Pakistan, Anwar Zaheer Jamali. The government was keen on having former Supreme Court judges on the bench.
April 13, 2016
Five ex-SC judges refuse to lead inquiry
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan revealed that the former SC judges contacted by the government to head the inquiry commission had declined to do so. According to the minister, “all of these judges after taking the time to think over the matter refused to lead the commission without giving any reasons”.
Three days later, despite criticism from the press and political parties, Mr Sharif took off for London citing a medical check-up for five days.
April 16, 2016
PML-N proposes ToR
A government team headed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar finalised the terms of reference (ToR) for the proposed inquiry commission — which would define the scope within which the investigation would take place. Maryam Nawaz expressed annoyance over PML-N’s response not being “robust” enough. The opposition parties, however, were still unclear on how to go about the investigation. Three days later, the PM returned to Pakistan, eyeing a difficult job ahead of him.
April 22, 2016
‘Will resign if proven guilty’, says Sharif in second state address
In another address to the nation, Mr Sharif announced that his government had decided to formally ask the then CJP to set up a judicial commission for investigations into the Panama Papers leaks.“If charges are proved against me, I will resign immediately,” vowed Mr Sharif.
On April 25, rejecting the inquiry commission proposed by the government, leaders from the PTI, PPP, MQM and PML-Q demanded that the ToR of any such commission be drafted in consultation with the opposition.
May 3, 2016
Opposition presents ToR
After a joint meeting between opposition parties, a set of ToR was presented to the government and the media. The ToR emphasised on initiating the inquiry into offshore holdings, starting with the Sharif family. Two days later, the government rejected the opposition’s draft of the ToR for an inquiry commission.
May 13, 2016
SC rejects inquiry commission
The Panamagate controversy took a new turn when the SC returned the federal government’s request to appoint an inquiry commission to investigate the leaked documents’ connection with the Sharif family.
Three days later, PM Sharif attempted to explain the ownership of his London flats. The money used to purchase the flats in Park Lane, he said, was linked to properties the Sharif family sold off in Pakistan decades ago. However, the PTI claimed that the PM had misled the National Assembly.
May 18, 2016
Consensus to form ToR committee
After much back and forth, the government and the opposition agreed to form a 12-member committee in order to draft joint ToR for the inquiry commission. After a meeting with opposition members, the then information minister, Pervaiz Rasheed, said the government and the opposition would name six legislators each to form the parliamentary committee.
Four days later, Nawaz flew to London for heart surgery scheduled to be performed on May 31.
June 4, 2016
The ToR stalemate
The 12-member bipartisan parliamentary committee seemed to have hit a dead end as both sides were not only refusing to budge from their positions on the issue of offshore companies but were also accusing each other of toughening their stance. Later that month, opposition parties said they would take to the streets if the government did not review its position on the ToR.
June 24, 2016
PTI files petition with ECP against Sharif
The PTI filed a reference with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seeking disqualification of PM Sharif for allegedly concealing his assets. Three days later, the PPP also petitioned the ECP to disqualify the prime minister and his family members.
July 9, 2016
Nawaz returns to Pakistan after 48 days
Mr Sharif returned from London, kicking off discussions among analysts about what he should now do to secure his future as the chief executive of the country. As he returned to work and was updated on the economic, security and political situation, PM Sharif was also determined to devise a plan to counter the PTI chief’s ‘propaganda’.
Aug 29, 2016
Seeking PM’s disqualification, PTI files petition with SC
The PTI filed a petition with the SC seeking disqualification of PM Sharif from his office as well as from the NA. The petition was filed by PTI’s counsel Naeem Bukhari on behalf of party’s chairman Imran Khan. It was filed against 10 respondents, including Nawaz Sharif, his daughter, sons and government institutions.
Oct 7, 2016
PTI’s next plan: Islamabad lockdown
The PTI chairman called on party workers to lay siege to Islamabad on Oct 30, telling them to paralyse the capital until PM Sharif resigned or presented himself for accountability.
In a bid to increase pressure on the government, on Oct 10, the PTI asked the SC to hold an early hearing of its petition seeking disqualification of the PM, his son-in-law retired Capt Mohammad Safdar and Senator Ishaq Dar for their alleged involvement in the Panamagate scandal.
Oct 20, 2016
SC accepts petitions
The SC started accepting petitions filed by the PTI, JWP, JI and others to begin the proceedings. “I welcome the judicial proceedings in connection with Panama Papers,” said the prime minister in a reply.
Almost a week later, the SC formed a five-judge larger bench to hear petitions regarding Panamagate. Earlier, a three-member bench accepted petitions filed by the PTI and Sheikh Rashid asking for the prime minister’s disqualification.
Oct 31, 2016
Imran’s lockdown threat gets serious
The PTI chief called on supporters to gather in the capital, but the numbers weren’t impressive. The government placed shipping containers to block off routes from Punjab and KP into Islamabad.
Later on Nov 1, it was a win-win for all sides when the SC asked the government and the PTI to present their respective ToR, in case the court decided to constitute an inquiry commission. The order allowed Imran Khan to call off his plan to lock down the capital, while the PM accepted the formation of a judicial commission to investigate the Panama Papers scam, which had been a bone of contention between the two parties since the scandal broke in April.
Nov 7, 2016
Sharif children submit replies to SC
The counsel for PM Sharif, Salman Aslam Butt, informed the SC bench that Hassan Nawaz had been running a business lawfully for 22 years and Hussain for 16 years. He added that Maryam Nawaz was not dependent on her father. Denying allegations levelled in the petitions, Maryam said she was not the beneficial owner of Nielsen and Nescoll, but only a trustee.
Nov 14, 2016
PTI submits evidence, PML-N lawyer presents Qatari letter
The SC questioned the quality of the evidence presented by the PTI and deplored that their 680-page submission had almost nothing to do with the Sharif family’s London properties. The Sharif children’s newly engaged counsel, Mohammad Akram Sheikh, presented the court with an attested letter from a former Qatari prime minister, Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al Thani, with yet another explanation for the London flats. The SC was not pleased to hear another explanation for how the Sharif family paid for its London properties and said that both sides were doing their best to ensure that the court would eventually have to form a commission to decide the Panamagate case.
Dec 9, 2016
CJ Jamali’s retirement halts proceedings
Proceedings in the case ended on Dec 9, 2016, as CJ Zaheer Jamali was scheduled to retire. The SC said that arguments from both sides would start afresh when hearings resumed in January. A five-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Khosa had been constituted by the SC to resume the hearing from Jan 4.
On Dec 31, 2016, PM Sharif and his children submitted to the SC documents notifying a change of counsel. According to the documents, advocate Makhdoom Ali Khan would represent the PM and Salman Akram Raja would appear on behalf of his children.
Jan 4, 2017
New bench resumes hearing
The case hearing resumed when the five-judge bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, was informed about details of the offices held by PM Sharif during his political career. PTI’s counsel Naeem Bukhari sought the court’s permission to refer to a number of interviews of the PM, his spouse and children to highlight that every one took a different stand regarding ownership of the London properties.
Jan 6, 2017
Burden of proof becomes a sticking point
Members of the SC bench hearing the Panamagate case expressed divergent opinions over which side shouldered the burden of proof. While Justice Asif Khosa — who heads the bench — placed the burden of proof on Prime Minister Sharif’s family, Justice Azmat and Justice Ejaz differed
On Jan 12, 2017, the prime minister’s counsel was quizzed about a money trail for the London flats.
Jan 13, 2017
Sharif family’s flats purchased in 1990s, BBC report reveals
Properties owned by the Sharif family in London’s upscale Park Lane neighbourhood were purchased in the 1990s and there has been no change of ownership since then, BBC Urdu reported.
German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Jan 23 tweeted documents to ‘help’ Pakistanis form their own opinion on the role of Prime Minister Sharif’s daughter in the Panamagate case.
On Jan 26, a second letter was floated by Hussain Nawaz’s counsel, ‘clarifying’ Sharif’s investment in Gulf Steel Mills.
Feb 15, 2017
PTI presents ‘new evidence’
The bench postponed day-to-day proceedings after Justice Saeed had to be rushed to the Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology following chest pains on Jan 31. The prime minister’s counsel argued that the petitioners had failed to link Mr Sharif to any wrongdoing. Since no serious charge could be established against the prime minister except general allegations, there was no possibility of holding his children accountable for the allegations levelled by petitioners.
Feb 18, 2017
Consider Qatari letters void, Imran asks SC
Imran Khan submitted an affidavit to the SC, asking it to ignore the two Qatari letters produced by the Sharif family as evidence of their stance in the case.
On Feb 22, the Attorney General of Pakistan told the bench that the case record in the Hudaibiya reference had been examined and that the company had obtained loans through foreign currency accounts. At this, Justice Saeed expressed the bench’s frustration by saying that the lawyers were issuing different statements each time which was confusing the bench.
Feb 23, 2017
Panamagate hearings conclude; judgement awaited
After both the defence and prosecution completed their arguments, the apex court said it would reserve its verdict on the Panamagate case and issue a detailed judgment. “We will decide this case only by the law…such that people will say 20 years down the line that this judgment was made by the book,” said Justice Khosa.
Reporting by Hasham Cheema, Nasir Iqbal, Irfan Raza, Amir Wasim, Naveed Siddiqui and Haseeb Bhatti. Illustration by Fahad Naveed. Creative Department: Xpert Services. Layout by Salman Khan. To read more, visit www.dawn.com
Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2017