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Panamagate: Sharif Contests Charges Amid Protests by Lawyers

The investigation team found that Sharif’s family was living beyond the known means of income.

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Panamagate: Sharif Contests Charges Amid Protests by Lawyers
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Lower and higher courts in Pakistan came to a standstill on Wednesday as lawyers across the country held protests demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's resignation after a probe recommended filing a graft case against him and his family.

Amid the protests, Sharif contested the graft charges against him and his family in the Supreme Court, saying the Panama probe panel did not produce any document to prove that he was the owner of the posh London flats which are at the centre of the high- profile case.

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The protests were called by Pakistan’s top lawyers’ associations, including the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and the Supreme Court Bar Association. The courts, where protests were organised, did not hear any case.

The Supreme Court, however, continued with its proceedings, including hearing the Panama Papers leaks case.

The Lahore High Court was also paralysed by a partial strike by the lawyers.

The organisations have urged Sharif to "honourably" resign as he has "lost the moral and legal authority" to continue in his office after a joint investigation team (JIT) report accused him and his family of evading tax by setting up offshore companies to purchase high-end properties in London.

Bar council Vice Chairman Ahsan Bhoon said the lawyer community has expressed solidarity with the Supreme Court and asked Sharif to step down.

"We have requested the Supreme Court to take the Panama Papers case to its logical end and disqualify the prime minister and other public office-holders declared guilty of corruption in the JIT report."

The Panamagate Graft Case Against Sharif

The joint investigation team had recently probed the Panamagate graft case against Sharif and his family and found “glaring disparities” between their known sources of income and their actual wealth.

The JIT that investigated the Sharif family's business dealings has recommended that the National Accountability Bureau open a reference against Sharif and his family after the probe panel found “glaring disparities” between their known sources of income and their actual wealth, the Dawn reported.

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The report, however, was slammed by the Nawaz Sharif government as “trash” with Sharif's close aide and minister for development Ahsan Iqbal in press conference with other ministers, saying they will challenge the report in the Supreme Court and will “completely expose and unveil its contradictions and falsifications”.

Sharif's daughter Maryam also rejected the report, saying,

JIT report rejected Every contradiction will not only be contested but decimated in SC. Not a penny of public exchequer involved.
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JIT Report Presented to 3-Member Special Bench

The JIT report suggests that a reference should be filed against Prime Minister Sharif and his sons Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz, as well as daughter Maryam Nawaz, under Section 9 of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ordinance 1999, the daily said.

The JIT has found that the assets of all four respondents have been found to be more than the sources of their income in the probe completed today. The JIT observed in its concluding remarks:

Significant gap/disparity amongst the known and declared sources of income and the wealth accumulated by the Respondent No 1, 6, 7 and 8 have been observed.

The report said the financial structure and health of companies in Pakistan having linkage to Sharif family also do not substantiate their wealth.

JIT Chief Wajid Zia presented the report along with evidence to a three-member special bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal, Justice Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.

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What the Panama Papers Revealed Last Year

The six-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was set up in May by the Supreme Court with the mandate to probe the Sharif family for allegedly failing to provide the trail of money used to buy properties in London in 1990s.

The JIT has also probed several serving and former officials in connection with the case.

The six-member JIT included Federal Investigation Agency's (FIA) Additional Director General Wajid Zia, Military Intelligence's Brig Kamran Khurshid, National Accountability Bureau's (NAB) Director Irfan Naeem Mangi, State Bank of Pakistan's Amer Aziz, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan's (SECP) Executive Director Bilal Rasool and Inter- Services Intelligence's Brig Muhammad Nauman Saeed.

Last year, the Panama Papers revealed that three of Prime Minister Sharif's children owned offshore companies and assets not shown on his family's wealth statement. The assets in question include four expensive flats in Park Lane, London.

The top court took up the case in October last year on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Awami Muslim League and Jamaat-e-Islami and reserved the verdict in February after conducting hearings on a daily basis.

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