Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has for the first time explicitly rejected a report from a corruption investigation that raised questions about the source of his family’s wealth.
Sharif in a statement after meeting his cabinet in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Thursday described the probe as “slander.”
“The JIT report about our family businesses are the sum of hypotheses, accusations and slander,” the statement read, adding, “Accusations amounting to billions are being made here but no wrongdoing has been proven.”
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT), set up by the Supreme Court to investigate corruption claims that surfaced following the Panama Papers leak, spent two months probing the Sharif family’s wealth and gave its finding to the court on Monday.
The JIT team comprised members of civilian and powerful military bodies, including the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).
The court will now decide how to proceed with the report and whether to call for a trial. There were also calls for Sharif to be disqualified.
The 254-page report alleges Sharif’s businesses alone are not enough to explain the family’s wealth, which includes flats in an upscale London borough.
Sharif has always denied any wrongdoing over his family allegedly using offshore companies to buy luxury flats in a posh London neighborhood, and said his family wealth was acquired legally.
Sharif, 67, has been defiant in his condemnation of the report that alleges his family’s income from business was not large enough to explain its wealth.
Sharif’s family and allies have alleged there was a conspiracy against him, but opponents say the premier was trying to use such talk as a smokescreen to cover the serious allegations he faces.
The daughter of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, speaks to media after appearing before an anti-corruption commission at the Federal Judicial Academy in Islamabad on July 5, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Asif Khawaja, Pakistan’s defense minister and one of Sharif’s closest aides, earlier said the report was “full of flaws” and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party would contest the JIT findings in the court.
Opposition parties demand Sharif’s resignation
Meanwhile, several opposition parties have asked Sharif to step down or they will launch a campaign for his removal.
Imran Khan, the leader of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI), on Thursday reiterated his demand for Sharif’s resignation, saying the premier has lost all moral grounds to retain office.
“Democracy is a system under which government is run on the basis of moral, not physical authority” whereas the prime minister has lost all moral ground to retain office,” he said .
Shah Mehmood Qureshi, vice chairman of PTI, also said “Nawaz’s authority is completely eroded.”
“There is no legal, moral or political justification for him to continue,” Qureshi added.
Imran Khan, the leader of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) addresses a press briefing on July 11, 2017 (Photo by Dawn News)
The chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, on Tuesday reiterated that the premier had lost moral and legal ground to remain in office.
“They [the Sharif family] used to say that we’re presenting accounts for the last three generations for scrutiny — what we have found instead is that the report has exposed all three generations of the first family as thieves,” said the PPP chairman.
Bhutto-Zardari earlier stressed, “As a result of the JIT’s confirmation of a vast and inexplicable gap between known sources of income and the wealth accumulated by the Sharifs, there is no other option for Nawaz Sharif but to resign before he is formally convicted by the Supreme Court.”
Khursheed Shah, a leader of PPP, on Thursday said in a press briefing that it is shameful for a prime minister to remain in office once his own cabinet begins discussing his resignation.
He accused the ruling party of moving towards a confrontation with “national institutions,” saying, “A lot of damage has been done by the way you [PML-N] have tried to malign institutions, which will take a lot of time to repair.”
Sharif’s term expires in June 2018 and elections are expected two months later. If he were forced to step down, his ruling PML-N party could appoint a new leader as prime minister until the polls.