The political saga surrounding PM Nawaz’s off-shore assets is about to flare up, as the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court began hearings into the Panama case on Thursday.
The nerve-wracking Supreme Court hearing was adjourned until Friday, July 21, with many believing that this may be the last hours of PM Nawaz’s rule. Thursday’s hearings have shown that the Nawaz family could be in big legal trouble for allegedly forging documents to prove themselves innocent of the corruption charges, which were revealed in a large-scale Panama Papers leak last year.
Ten days after the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) found “glaring disparity in the assets and known income” of the Nawaz family, the Supreme Court held its first Panama case hearing, which focused on the Nawaz family’s alleged submission of forged papers to the court.
With Nawaz’s case weakening each passing day, and his political career bleeding heavily under the pressure of legal trouble for failing to explain the source of his income, there is a high chance that the Supreme Court could disqualify the PM on Friday.
While the disqualification remains a very probable outcome of the Panama case hearings, Nawaz could also step down voluntarily amid the mounting pressure and the court warning that the Prime Minister and his family members could be sentenced to seven years in prison, a typical imprisonment term for those who submit false documents in court.
Panama Case: Nawaz And Family Facing 7-Year Jail Sentence
If the Supreme Court proves during its Panama case hearings that the documents submitted by the Nawaz family were in fact forged, the PM would be disqualified from office and himself and his family members would face jail time.
The hearings come more than a week after the final JIT report into the Panama case probe recommended filing a reference against the Nawaz family with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on corruption charges. While the Pakistan economy continues nose-diving amid the ongoing corruption investigation, the nation is scaring away potential investors who think twice before pouring their money into a country run by allegedly corrupt politicians.
The whole nation has entered the state of uncertainty, with many believing that Nawaz is living his last days in office. If the PM is indeed removed from power or he chooses to voluntarily resign, it would mean that no Pakistani PM has managed to complete their five-year tenure in the country’s history.
With many Nawaz supporters saying that the Panama case is the latest witch-hunt aimed to take down the government ahead of the general election in 2018, the PM’s legal case has substantially weakened over the past few days and it is tough to say if Nawaz is going to remain in office through the end of this week, let alone the upcoming election next summer.
Nawaz Is One Supreme Court Judge Away From Being Disqualified
Amid unending calls from Nawaz’s political opponents for the PM to step down to stop embarrassing himself in the Panama case hearings, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Babar Awan claimed earlier this week that two out of five judges of the Supreme Court “already believe PM should be disqualified.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Awan said that only one more judge is needed to remove Nawaz from power. Thursday’s hearings showed that members of the Supreme Court’s bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, have serious doubts about Nawaz’s innocence in the corruption charges.
The judges have pointed at the allegedly forged documents submitted by the Nawaz family as well as several inaccuracies in the PM’s claims. The JIT investigation last week concluded that the Prime Minister’s family failed to publicly declare a huge amount of assets, which were made public in the massive Panama case leak in 2016.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairperson Imran Khan said Nawaz “will soon be behind bars,” warning the PM that submitting forged documents to the court is a punishable offence.
#Fontgate: Nawaz’s Counsel Defends the Use of Calibri Font in 2006 Docs
Nawaz, however, is not giving up, as the counsel for his children, who were mentioned in the Panama case revelations last year, Salman Akram Raja submitted a 17-page petition defending the PM’s family and criticizing the JIT probe with a series of objections.
During the Panama case hearing on Thursday, Raja defended his client, Nawaz’s daughter Maryam Nawaz, in the scandal circulating around the Microsoft Calibri font used by the PM’s daughter when submitting what she claimed to be “original copies” of two documents dating February 2006, refuting ownership of several properties in London mentioned in the Panama leak.
As revealed by creator of the Calibri font, Lucas de Groot, in an email conversation with ValueWalk’s Sheeraz Raza last week, only a handful of beta operating systems had the font in 2006 – and it would be quite a challenge to obtain it back then – as the font had not been made public until after Microsoft Office made it its default font in January 2007.
While the font creator’s revelations suggest that the documents by Nawaz’s daughter were forged, Raja tried to convince the Supreme Court otherwise. Addressing the three-judge bench during the Panama case hearing, Raja insisted that the Calibri font could have technically been used in 2006.
Nawaz On July 21, 2017: Resigning Or Getting Disqualified?
Supreme Court judges will likely continue grilling Nawaz and his family members when the bench gets back to reviewing the Panama case on Friday. As the judges are more likely to find more evidence suggesting that Nawaz is corrupt and has allegedly been abusing his authority to enrich himself and his family, the Pakistani PM could resign voluntarily on Friday.
The entire nation will be watching the Panama case hearing, as many expect the judges to disqualify the PM, who was elected by Pakistani people in 2013. The third possible scenario, however, is that Nawaz could actually survive the Panama case scandal and live through the 2018 election, but the chances of that remain lower than ever.