Seven months after the ‘Panama Papers‘ tax scandal, one opposition group in Pakistan has successfully forced the establishment of a commission to investigate the Prime Minister’s wealth in offshore companies.
Supreme Court victory
The Supreme Court in Pakistan started proceedings in a case labelled ‘Panamagate’ after leaked reports exposed who had wealth stored in the tax haven of Panama. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was one of those mentioned in the leaks, along with members of his family.
Imran Khan, leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) party (or ‘Justice party’), petitioned the Supreme Court to investigate allegations of corruption by Sharif. On Tuesday 1 November, the Supreme Court ruled that it would set up a commission to probe the leaked revelations about Sharif and his family. And it will accept terms of reference (ToRs) from both the PTI and Sharif’s party – the Pakistan Muslim League (PML).
Roadblocks to justice
The PTI called for nationwide protests for this outcome, in defiance of a ban. But rallies experienced heavy police interference, involving physical force and teargas to stop protestors. Many were arrested, and the PTI claims that two of its supporters died from teargas inhalation.
While a ‘lockdown’ was planned on Wednesday 2 November, Khan decided to change the action to a day of thanksgiving, saying:
I am elated that the investigation into Nawaz Sharif’s [alleged corruption] will begin [the] day after tomorrow.
Some have criticised Khan for the change in strategy, but others see it as necessary in respect of the Court’s decision. Supreme Court proceedings will resume on Thursday 3 November.
Panamagate started after a law firm called Mossack Fonseca leaked millions of records detailing how and which politicians and celebrities used banks, law firms and shell companies to essentially hide their assets in tax havens. The leaks formed an investigation published on 3 April 2016 by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Documents indicated that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s children Maryam, Hasan and Hussain “were owners or had the right to authorise transactions for several companies”.
This in itself is not illegal, but Khan has argued that wealth stored in this way has come from corruption. He has kept up pressure for a transparent inquiry into the practices.
The Pakistani case may be the biggest action we have seen in relation to the scandal since April’s leaks, which also implicated family members of then British Prime Minister David Cameron. Six Israelis have also been arrested in relation to the Panama Papers, but anti-corruption group Transparency International has questioned whether anything has really changed (apart from political commitments) since the revelations.
Although progress has been slow up to this point, others around the world angry about the tax avoidance of their political elites may find hope in the relentless pursuit of justice in Pakistan.
– Read more international reporting from The Canary.
Featured image via Flickr/FNPI
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?