Islamabad: Days after the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the Panama Papers case, involving Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his children, the premier’s daughter took to social media to dismiss the leaks.
Maryam Nawaz Sharif provoked a new debate on social media on Wednesday by challenging the authenticity of the Panama Papers and the journalists who exposed them.
In her series of tweets, Maryam Sharif dismissed the Panama Papers as [expletive], which had been “trashed in the rest of the world”, adding: “Those relying on it to bring down [Nawaz Sharif will] bite the dust Insha’Allah”.
Her tweets, on Tuesday sparked a new controversy as she claimed, “Panama papers were never about corruption. Even the stealers & hackers [read originators] didn’t say it was. Losers in imminent danger of being swept away in 2018 pounced upon the conspiracy hatched by evil minds.”
Her reference to global journalists who unveiled Panama Papers in April last year, compelled Bastian Obermayer, the Pulitzer-winning Süddeutsche Zeitung reporter who broke the Panama Papers story, to respond and clarify.
“Sorry to tell you: Panama Papers ARE about corruption. We found an astonishing number of corruption cases in the documents — and all real,” he tweeted in response.
This provoked a reaction from Sharif, who responded: “Don’t want [to] say much [about] nexus [between you and your Pakistani] counterparts but sad that they [became] a part of conspiracy against Pakistan.” Sharif’s tweet was aimed at Pakistan’s investigative journalists.
Obermayer then responded to her tweet, saying: “Journalism isn’t about bringing down a [government]. It’s about telling the truth. Like it or not,” adding that the Panama Papers weren’t only about Pakistan.
Later, Frederik Obermaier, another Pulitzer-winning journalist who worked on the Panama Papers, joined the conversation on Twitter.
Focusing on Maryam Sharif’s indication that the Panama Papers were “trashed in the rest of the world”, he reminded that the leaks had led to “[over] 150 investigations, audits & investigations in [over] 80 countries”.
Prime Minister Sharif’s spokesperson, Mussadiq Malek, told Pakistani media that Maryam Sharif took to Twitter as she wanted to disprove the impression — created by the opposition — that her father had been indicted in the Panamagate case.
Maryam Sharif dismissed the Panama Papers because there was no proof that any sort of corruption was committed in Panama Papers, Malek said.
“Therefore, all such allegations by the opposition are [expletive] and trash,” Malek was quoted as saying by Dawn.
“The apex court has ordered further investigation of the case by a JIT to ascertain whether any corruption had been committed or not,” he said.
The exchange between Maryam Sharif and reporters of German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung drew a lot of attention on mainstream and social media.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the leading opposition party which has been on the forefront against the Panama Papers case in Pakistan, made a sarcastic statement on Twitter, saying: “Probably [Maryam Nawaz Sharif] deems Panama is “trashed” in rest of the world because rest of the world took action last year already”.
PTI also gave reference to recent cases in which heads of the states were held accountable such as the case of British PM David Cameron who had to justify his father’s assets before parliament, and the Icelandic PM who stepped down in the wake of the protests over Panama Papers revelations.
“In democratic societies, accused step down themselves,” the party tweeted.
Umar Cheema, Pakistan’s top investigative journalist, questioned in his tweet: “If #PanamaPapers is [expletive], will Sharif family issue a letter allowing British Virgin Islands to give full access to Nielsen/Nescoll record?”