Pakistan’s Nawaz government is facing legal action over new developments in the Panama Papers case in the alleged Pakistan corruption. Shaken by the ongoing probe into the corruption scandal, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could potentially be removed from power ahead of the Pakistan election in 2018.

Nawaz Sharif Panama Papers Case
By Prerna goyal (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
A joint investigation team (JIT) that probed the Pakistan corruption scandal involving Nawaz and his family has found “glaring disparities” between their known sources of income and their actual wealth in its final report on Monday. Now the political career of Nawaz and his chances of winning the general election next summer hang by a thread.

After the six-member JIT, which was set up in May to investigate Nawaz and his family’s links to the alleged Panama Papers case regarding money laundering, submitted the final report to the Supreme Court, the latter ordered the opening of a criminal case against one of the top officials in the Nawaz government.

Nawaz could be by proxy responsible for tampering records to make himself look clean and innocent in the scandalous Panama Papers case, as the Supreme Court takes legal action against the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s chairman Zafar Hijazi for meddling in the investigation to favor Nawaz and his family.

The reputation of the Nawaz government is already on thin ice, as more evidence seems to point to a large-scale Pakistan corruption case of Nawaz abusing his authority to enrich himself and his family.

Panama Papers Case: Probe Panel Wants Nawaz Government Booked for Corruption Charges

It took the JIT 60 days to examine allegations of Pakistan corruption in the Nawaz government, and it looks like the Panama Papers case is becoming a big headache for arguably the most powerful man in Pakistan.

In addition to the opening of a criminal case against Zafar, the Supreme Court and the JIT investigators, comprised of Pakistan’s police, military and financial regulators, also want Nawaz and his family booked for Pakistan corruption charges. The final report into the Panama Papers probe has found “glaring disparities” between the known and declared sources of income and the wealth accumulated by the Prime Minister and his sons Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz, as well as daughter Maryam Nawaz.

The probe panel has recommended that the National Accountability Bureau open a reference against the Nawaz government and his family under Section 9 of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ordinance 1999. The daunting scandal surrounding Nawaz’s alleged offshore assets will most likely cast a shadow on his chances of winning the general election in summer 2018.

What Has Panama Papers Case Found In Links to the Corruption Scandal?

In what has become one of the largest Pakistan corruption scandals in history of the country, a major 2016 leak of 11.5 million Panama Papers documents revealed that the three of Nawaz’s children were listed as beneficiaries for three offshore companies registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Although it’s not illegal to own off-shore companies in Pakistan, political opponents of the Nawaz government have been accusing the Prime Minister and his family of obtaining properties abroad through money laundering means. The Panama Papers case regarding the Pakistan corruption scandal involving Nawaz and his family seems to have proven that the PM has not fully declared his assets to tax authorities.

The JIT also went on to investigate money laundering allegations revolving around the sale and purchase of a number of expensive units in Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Nawaz Government Hangs by a Thread Over the Pakistan Corruption Probe

On Sunday, Nawaz, who has always vehemently denied any links to the Pakistan corruption scandal, attempted to explain what the investigators have dubbed as the “significant gap/disparity” between his declared income and actual wealth – by saying that the former Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani’s father was his business owner, and that the apartments he owns in London were purchased with the help of funds transferred from Qatar.

However, the probe into the alleged corruption case in the Nawaz government has not included a testimony from the former Qatari Prime Minister, who rejected the invitation to testify before the probe panel. Sheikh Al Thani said he was not subject to Pakistan law, and invited the JIT team to Qatar to record his statement regarding the Pakistan corruption scandal instead. However, the investigators have never travelled to Qatar to do so.

Nawaz’s Political Career Shaky as the PM Looks More Guilty Than Ever

In a corruption case that could remove Prime Minister Nawaz from power, the JIT has questioned seven members of the PM’s family, including Nawaz himself. In addition questioning those who were named in the Panama Papers case – Nawaz’s two sons and daughter – the investigators also heard testimonies from Nawaz daughter Maryam’s husband Muhammad Safdar Awan, Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif as well as finance minister Ishaq Dar, whose son is married to Nawaz’s other daughter, Asma.

The Supreme Court set up the JIT in May and gave it the mandate to examine the alleged links between the Nawaz family and the Pakistan corruption scandal. In addition to investigating Nawaz’s alleged off-shore assets revealed in the Panama Papers, the JIT team also probed several former and current officials in the Nawaz government.

With the Supreme Court catching one of the Nawaz government officials red-handed tampering with records in favor of the Prime Minister’s family, Nawaz looks more guilty of the Pakistan corruption than ever.

What Happens If Nawaz Gets Removed From Power in the Corruption Scandal?

In fact, Nawaz could be removed from his position of holding public office in the Supreme Court rules that the PM have attempted to disguise his assets or has not provided an adequate explanation of the source of his off-shore assets. The Prime Minister could be removed from office and the Nawaz government would be broken apart. In such a case, the Pakistani parliament would have to elect a new PM even though the general elections 2018 is just around the corner.

Nawaz’s PML-N party holds a large majority in the parliament, and a potential removal of the party chief from power could be play a cruel trick on the party’s chances of maintaining that majority in the 2018 general election.