The next round will be in 2018



M. Ziauddin

The lock-down threat has been postponed. The entire nation, especially the citizens of twin-cities heaved a massive sigh of relief. Instead, PTI observed Thanksgiving Day on November 2, 2016 at the Parade Ground—the venue that the courts had earlier designated for the purpose of public meeting/sit-in by the PTI counseling the Party at the same time that law of the land did not allow anybody, no matter who to lock down a city, especially the country’s capital. The gathering on the Thanksgiving day was highly impressive proving if proof was needed that the postponing the lock-down threat had had no effect on Imran Khan’s popularity.
The PTI chief announced the postponement of the lock-out after Tuesday’s decision of the Supreme Court to set up a commission to find out whether or not the UK flats mentioned in the Panama Papers were bought with taxed money or tax evaded money.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked both the Pakistan Muslim League and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf to submit their Terms of Reference (ToRs) on the formation of a commission to probe the Panama Papers leaks.
The top court made this decision before adjourning the hearing of the Panamagate case that calls for investigating the prime minister and his close family members over alleged investments in offshore companies. According to the PTI counsel, the court said that in the event the contesting parties failed to form a consensus on ToRs, the court itself will decide the terms. The proposed commission will report to the Supreme Court and will have powers equivalent to that of the SC.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali asked the two parties to “show restraint”. Both the PML-N and the protesting PTI accepted the Supreme Court’s offer to form a judicial commission. Speaking to reporters after the hearing, PTI’s counsel Hamid Khan said, “There is agreement on the commission.” PML-N lawyer Aslam Butt also informed the court that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif agreed to the formation of a judicial commission.
Unlike the 2014 protest sit-in, this time Imran was lucky that none f the flunkies—Sheikh Rashid, Tahirul Qadri or the Chaudhry brothers—were with him when he decided that he brought the temperature to right degree of the boil and it was time to stop it from boiling over leaving him no room to withdraw like the last time when the flunkies had forced him to go for the kill when the circumstances were not in favor of such a move and he had to continue drag the sit-in with only a handful of his workers until the attack on Army Public School provided him the face saver.
This time he was not looking for a face saver but had manipulated one on his own terms and turned his protest into Thanksgiving while still keeping the political initiative in his hands.
The hearing of the case is to begin from tomorrow (Nov.3, 2016), most probably on daily basis with the bench/commission having full day sessions with perhaps short breaks for lunch and tea.
Since the burden of proof is most likely be on the Prime Minister and his immediate family and since they had already owned up the property mentioned in the Panama Papers the bench/commission need not, at least at the initial stage, seek assistance of the Panama government for obtaining collaborating evidence.
What is left for first family to prove to be acquitted of any crime is to show with documentary proof that the flats in London were purchased with clean money and not tax-evaded resources and also they need to come up with a satisfactory explanation why these were not shown in the Prime Minister’s tax returns since his return from exile.
However, it would be next to impossible for the SC or the other contesting party to produce documentary proof to debunk the claim of the family, if such a claim is made by the family, that no tainted money was used in the purchase of the property because under the law the FBR is not obliged to disclose tax details of any one pertaining to the period beyond 5-6 years and; since these flats were purchased most probably in early 1990s retrieving the tax documents of anyone dating back to quarter of a century, what talk of the first family, would face an impossibly un-scalable wall.
The next question why this property was not shown in the tax documents of the Prime Minister since his return home from his eight long years of forced exile in 2007 has an even easier answer: by that time these flats had been inherited by his children.
One cannot rule out the possibility that it was the late Mian Sharif, the father of Sharif brothers who had actually bought the London flats in his own name in early 1990s and going by the family culture in this part of the world, these flats along with most of the properties owned by the Sharif family had remained in the name of the elder Sharif until his death which occurred during the time the family was in exile.
And even if the flats in question had been inherited by Nawaz after the distribution of the property on the death of his father, how could he have shown them in his tax returns as most probably he was not filing any returns during his exile. And before his return home in 2007, he most probably had distributed the property he had inherited from his father to his children.
And it is also possible that since by the time Mian Sharif departed from this world, his grand children had come of age and were running their own businesses, one in Saudi Arabia and the other in London perhaps the grandfather had bequeathed the flats directly to his grand children.
Since the Prime Minister’s sons do not hold any public office in Pakistan and since what they own today they had inherited from their elders while the family was in exile in Saudi Arabia they cannot be accused of breaking any law of the land for keeping these flats in the name of an offshore company in Panama.
And since the Prime Minister either never owned these flats in his name or even if he had inherited them after his father’s death he had, most probably while still in exile, distributed them among his children he too cannot be accused of using tainted money to buy these flats either when his party ruled the Punjab or when he had enjoyed Prime Ministerial powers twice in Islamabad in the 1990s or for not showing them in his tax returns that he filed since returning home in 2007.
So, most probably we are heading for a stalemate in this case as well similar to the one that was seen following the probe into the Imran Khan’s allegations of rigging conducted by a Supreme Court judicial commission in 2014.
But by the time this stalemate is reached, Imran would have mobilized his workers to a level where he would be able give the PMLN a run or its money in 2018 elections. And by that time would have made the KP a model province. So the next elections are likely to be contested more keenly between the PTI and PMLN.

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