By Mansoor Ali Khan.
Just a week ago, we may have not known ‘Panama’ more than just a small country located in South American region with a population of four million and a reasonably strong economy, but hardly a few of us would have known something about “Offshore companies”. It was in the night of April 3, 2016 when the news about 11.5 million confidential documents that provide detailed information about more than 214,000 offshore companies listed by the Panamanian legal & corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca.
However, more than a year before the first publication of the Panama leaks in April 2016, a German newspaper ‘Suddeutsche Zeitung’ was offered large number of documents from an anonymous source, who probably did not identify himself but may have obtained the documents through hacking company’s 40 years data. The newspaper accepted and began to receive more and more material; within one year they acquired a total of 2.6 terabytes of data consisting of documents related to Mossack Fonseca and shared it with ‘ International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ which later organized the research and review of documents, providing information on 214,488 offshore entities related to public officials.
It was by April 3, 2016 that this news spread all over the world, exposing thousands of ‘nobel figures’ from 76 countries who had invested in offshore companies, and dealings of some of the world’s most powerful political players, such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the King of Saudi Arabia via Mossack Fonseca to hide the sources of their capital and avoid Taxes. The leaked documents created anger in those countries and PM of Iceland had to even resign. The list might have not been of any importance for Pakistanis if it did not have mention the ‘offshore holdings’ of Sharif family members including the sons and daughter of Mian Nawaz Sharif, who currently is serving as the 18th elected Prime Minister of Pakistan.
According to documents available on the ICIJ website, the PM’s children Mariam Nawaz, Hasan and Hussain Nawaz own several offshore companies. Mariam is described as “the owner of British Virgin Islands-based firms Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited, incorporated in 1994 and 1993”. Hasan Nawaz Sharif is described as “the sole director of Hangon Property Holdings Limited incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in February 2007, which acquired Liberia-based firm Cascon Holdings Establishment Limited for about $11.2 million in August 2007”.
Panama leaks have given a new issue to Sharifs’ opposition, their biggest rival Imran Khan, who could not exploit the issue of rigging to kick them out earlier, is gathering his energies to declare the final battle.
Will Imran Khan succeed this time..?
A lot has been said about Imran Khan’s politics. Imran Khan, despite of being an honest and committed politician lacks political maturity. He claims to be the only real opposition, who is battling wicked and corrupt politicians alone, but he takes emotional decisions in haste. His gullible nature, solo flights and choosing wrong allies have led him down earlier. Despite of being the third or perhaps the second largest political force in parliament, he completely ignored the parliament to become the part of an extra-constitutional game plan which united all political forces against him. Imran Khan therefore had failed to put any pressure on Sharifs and was not able to prove his stance on rigging through his 4 months long sit-in.
But things are looking little different this time. Panama leaks have put a deep dent on Sharif’s popularity and credibility. Imran Khan too seems to have changed his strategies. He has perhaps decided to initiate a final battle in Raiwand while remaining in the parliament and keeping Pakistan People’s Party on his side. That could be the reason why he has not turned his guns towards PPP and its leadership yet. His political maneuvering such as demand to address the nation through ‘Pakistan Television’ may look weird but it is a good tactic to pressurize government & avoid further blackouts of their speeches on National Television.
What is Nawaz Sharif’s future..?
Panama leaks have put Nawaz Sharif on back foot. Despite of his attempts of addressing the nation and looking confident, he knows that his politics is on stake. All political forces have rejected that judicial commission, which he has set up to investigate the scandal and which will comprise on retired judges. His cabinet Ministers look desperate and they are trying hard to justify their leader’s ‘suspicious wealth’.
Imran Khan cannot wait for 2018. He wants immediate exit of Nawaz Sharif. But it may benefit PML-N in the long run. Any attempt of his forceful exit will make him a ‘Political Martyr’ and he might emerge even more popular and stronger in the next elections. That is why I think Imran Khan should keep this issue to exploit in 2018 during his election campaign; as any unconstitutional attempt could be a blowback to Sharif’s opponents.
Writer is a Current Affairs Producer with a News Channel based in Islamabad.