Despite there being no evidence of wrongdoing by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the Panama Papers do reveal a chain of links and circumstances which range across his extended family that raise questions that require answers. Some of these are historical and quite where the prime minister got his wealth from originally is far from clear. As to the reasons why he and other family members may have decided to place their wealth offshore, the answer may lie in the fact that as a family their assets have in the past been plundered by the state. It is not only the Sharif clan that have suffered, so have others — in which case it makes sense to put one’s money beyond the reach of a rapacious state and moreover do it legally, if lacking somewhat ethically and morally.
It is the latter point that is currently being laboured by Imran Khan. Making a public address on April 10, Imran Khan reiterated his demand for an impartial judicial inquiry and a forensic audit into the matter and that if this was not forthcoming, he urged the people “to rise before it is too late”. He has threatened to lay siege to the prime minister’s residence at Raiwind and said that the prime minister had lost his moral authority to govern.
Mr Khan may be prone to hyperbole but he does have a point. As has been previously highlighted in these columns, we support an impartial inquiry into the Panama revelations, though whether it is judicial or in some other format is increasingly open to question. Where Mr Khan falls down is in statements like “the evidence is already there” — because it is not. The evidence of wrongdoing may appear upon inquiry but at the moment, the prime minister is clean; and ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is as applicable to the prime minister as it is to Mr Khan or anybody else. But there is cause for reasonable doubt — and given the nature of the office it is also reasonable to take a position that the prime minister should be held to a higher standard than that of the common man.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2016.
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