ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has cautioned that if the people’s mandate is not respected and conspirators continue to further their ‘specific agendas’, “then not only democracy but the country’s security will be at stake”.
He was speaking to the media outside the Federal Judicial Academy on Thursday following his maiden appearance before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing into his family’s offshore assets. The questioning lasted almost three hours.
On April 20, the Supreme Court had constituted the JIT and empowered it to summon the prime minister, his sons and any other person linked to the ongoing investigation into the Panamagate case.
Premier Sharif preferred to read out a pre-written statement – most probably drafted for the occasion well before his scheduled arrival at the FJA – rather than speaking his mind.
His 11-minute media talk was generic in nature – dubbed a ‘political speech’ by his political rivals – and in the end he avoided taking questions from reporters.
Sharif talked about the allegations his family and he had faced in the past and stated that “once again my family has been held accountable for the same accusations that could never be established”.
Sharif said he appeared before the JIT because everyone, including the prime minister of Pakistan, was answerable under the law.
However, he used the occasion to hit out at his political foes and ‘conspirators’ busy in hatching conspiracies against the ‘will of the people’.
Conveying his message to ‘unknown’ forces, Premier Sharif said the days of playing games behind the scenes were over. “No one will be allowed to stage puppet shows anymore.”
“Now, we will not allow anyone to repeat history,” he said in an apparent reference to the politics of the 1990s when democratically-elected governments had been toppled with the help of the ‘third force’ over corruption allegations.
The prime minister said Pakistan had already paid a huge price for ‘political dramas’ and conspiracies but “now the time has come to uphold the flag of truth”.
Sharif said that within days the report of the JIT and the decision of the Supreme Court on it would come out but added that everyone should keep in mind that “another JIT, a bigger one, and a Supreme Court bigger than the one hearing the Panamagate case, is also scheduled to announce its decision next year”. He was referring to the 2018 general elections.
“A JIT and a Supreme Court comprising 200 million people of Pakistan will also announce its verdict next year,” he said and predicted his party would win a mandate larger than the one it had clinched in the 2013 general elections.
Sharif told the media that he had submitted all the documents related to the case with the JIT. “All documents of my assets are already with the departments concerned, including the Supreme Court. Today, I once again submitted the same with the JIT.”
The prime minister said he had been held accountable for every single penny, adding a milestone had been achieved that day as for the sake of law and supremacy of the Constitution his family and he presented themselves for accountability, once again.
He said accountability of his family had started in 1936, even before his birth. “Is there any family in Pakistan that has faced such ruthless accountability spanning over three generations?” the prime minister asked.
He categorically stated – and even asked the media to pen it down – that “[the] people of Pakistan should know that [the] ongoing investigation against my family is not about corruption or usurpation of public money, rather about my family’s personal businesses”.
He said as soon as the Panamagate issue surfaced in 2015 he had offered to form a judicial commission comprising apex court judges to probe the matter. “This issue could have been solved until now if my offer was not used for political point-scoring,” he added.
The prime minister said he has faced accountability on similar allegations during different tenures of the Pakistan Peoples Party. “It had started in 1972 when all our assets were nationalised; it was time when I just had graduated from the college.”
“We were again held accountable during the dictatorial regime of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf and it was so harsh that even our residences had been occupied.”
“There was no substance in those allegations. In the end, even Musharraf implicated me in a false plane hijacking case,” he added.
Sharif said he has served as the chief minister of Punjab once and in 2013 the people of Pakistan elected him for the third time as the prime minister of Pakistan.
“During this tenure, I approved projects worth trillion of rupees. [But despite] my opponent’s all-out attempts, they never succeeded in unearthing corruption of even a single rupee,” he added.
In the end, Sharif said he had a lot to say but added he would say it some other time and at some other venue.
Sources claim the JIT members asked the prime minister questions about his different positions he had taken with reference to the London properties and the sources of funding to purchase those properties.
The prime minister was also asked questions about his role in Hudabiya Paper Mills, his knowledge of the funds transferred through and into the accounts mentioned in Ishaq Dar’s affidavit, the role played by the PM in his sons’ businesses and whether or not he provided or received any financial help to or from them, his sources of income and his knowledge of the sale of Gulf Steel and an explanation of his statement before parliament on the issue of a steel mill in Jeddah.