Po­lit­i­cal way for­ward for PM Nawaz Sharif – De-per­sist­ing Panama Leaks

Pakistan Observer - - NATIONAL - TASHFEEN JA­MAL 1. Cur­rent Pak­istani pol­i­tics is trou­bled with a flood of new sto­ries orig­i­nat­ing from panama based off­shore tax havens. To some Pak­ista­nis, panama leaks have pro­vided first op­por­tu­nity to see through a win­dow of the Cen­tral Amer­ica a se­cre

and 2.1 mil­lion PDFs from the Pana­ma­nian law firm Mos­sack Fon­seca which ap­pears to spe­cial­ize in cre­at­ing shell com­pa­nies that its clients have used to hide their as­sets. Mos­sack Fon­seca is a Panama-based law firm whose ser­vices in­clude in­cor­po­rat­ing com­pa­nies in off­shore ju­ris­dic­tions such as the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands. It ad­min­is­ters off­shore firms for a yearly fee. Other ser­vices in­clude wealth man­age­ment.

5. The scan­dal re­sult­ing from their re­port­ing has al­ready touched celebri­ties, ath­letes, busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives and world lead­ers which in­clude Ice­land’s Prime Min­is­ter (Sig­mundur Gunnlaugs­son), Span­ish In­dus­tries Min­is­ter (Jose Manuel So­ria), and Kyr­gyzs­tan’s Prime Min­is­ter (Sariyev) along with Pak­istan’s Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif and his fam­ily mem­bers.

6. The doc­u­ments trace $2 bil­lion of hid­den money tied to Vladimir Putin through ac­counts held in the names of his fam­ily mem­bers and his cel­e­brated mu­si­cian friend Sergei Roldugin. Ice­landic Prime Min­is­ter Sig­mundur Gunnlaugs­son faced de­mands from the pre­vi­ous Ice­landic prime min­is­ter that he re­sign af­ter the Mos­sack Fon­seca doc­u­ments showed that Gunnlaugs­son may have failed to dis­close own­er­ship of a stake in cer­tain Ice­landic banks un­der the govern­ment’s rules for of­fi­cials. Con­se­quently, the Ice­land’s Prime Min­is­ter had to re­sign when pub­lic ral­lies thronged his of­fice in Reyk­javik. And the leaks dragged FIFA of­fi­cials back into the news, show­ing that even an ethics lawyer for the world soc­cer body had fi­nan­cial ties to an­other FIFA of­fi­cial al­ready ac­cused of cor­rup­tion.

7. The Panama Pa­pers are an un­prece­dented leak of 11.5m files from the data­base of the world’s fourth big­gest off­shore law firm, Mos­sack Fon­seca. The records were ob­tained from an anony­mous source by the Ger­man news­pa­per Süd­deutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the In­ter­na­tional Con­sor­tium of In­ves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ists (ICIJ). The ICIJ then shared them with a large net­work of in­ter­na­tional part­ners, in­clud­ing the Guardian and the BBC. The doc­u­ments show the myr­iad ways in which the rich can ex­ploit se­cre­tive off­shore tax regimes. Twelve na­tional lead­ers in­clud­ing Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif of Pak­istan are among 143 politi­cians, their fam­i­lies and close as­so­ciates from around the world known to have been us­ing off­shore tax havens.

8. Among na­tional lead­ers with off­shore wealth are Nawaz Sharif, Pak­istan’s prime min­is­ter; Ayad Allawi, ex-in­terim Prime Min­is­ter and for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent of Iraq; Petro Poroshenko, Pres­i­dent of Ukraine; Alaa Mubarak, son of Egypt’s for­mer pres­i­dent; and the Prime Min­is­ter of Ice­land, Sig­mundur Davíð Gunnlaugs­son.

9. An off­shore in­vest­ment fund run by the fa­ther of Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron avoided ever hav­ing to pay tax in Bri­tain by hir­ing a small army of Ba­hamas res­i­dents to sign its pa­per­work. The fund has been reg­is­tered with HM Rev­enue and Cus­toms Ser­vice in UK since its in­cep­tion and it has ma­nip­u­lated to file de­tailed tax re­turns ev­ery year in or­der to cre­ate an im­pres­sion of whitened money.

10. The firm is Pana­ma­nian but runs a world­wide op­er­a­tion. Its web­site boasts of a global net­work with 600 peo­ple work­ing in 42 coun­tries. It has fran­chises around the world, where sep­a­rately owned af­fil­i­ates sign up new cus­tomers and have ex­clu­sive rights to use its brand. Mos­sack Fon­seca op­er­ates in tax havens in­clud­ing Switzer­land, Cyprus and the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands, and in the Bri­tish crown de­pen­den­cies Guernsey, Jer­sey and the Isle of Man.

11. Mos­sack Fon­seca is the world’s fourth big­gest provider of off­shore ser­vices. It has acted for more than 300,000 com­pa­nies. There is a strong UK con­nec­tion. More than half of the com­pa­nies are reg­is­tered in Bri­tish-ad­min­is­tered tax havens, as well as in the UK it­self.

12. This leak is one of the big­gest ever – larger than the US diplo­matic ca­bles re­leased by Wiki Leaks in 2010, and the se­cret in­tel­li­gence doc­u­ments given to jour­nal­ists by Ed­ward Snow­den in 2013. There are 11.5m doc­u­ments and 2.6 ter­abytes of in­for­ma­tion drawn from Mos­sack Fon­seca’s in­ter­nal data­base.

13. Us­ing off­shore struc­tures is en­tirely le­gal. There are many le­git­i­mate rea­sons for do­ing so. Busi­ness peo­ple in coun­tries such as Rus­sia, Ukraine and Pak­istan typ­i­cally put their as­sets off­shore to de­fend them from “raids” by crim­i­nals, and to get around hard cur­rency re­stric­tions. Oth­ers use off­shore for rea­sons of in­her­i­tance and es­tate plan­ning.

14. In Pak­istan the rev­e­la­tions con­tained in the Panama Pa­pers re­mained the pri­mary bone of con­tention be­tween the PML-N and PTI as lead­ers from both sides ac­cused each other of bend­ing the truth and si­phon­ing off funds into off­shore com­pa­nies. Let us talk about PML-N; most of them feel’s that there will be no im­me­di­ate dan­ger to the PMLN govern­ment, though the po­lit­i­cal tem­per­a­ture will in­crease in the days to come fol­low­ing PTI’s de­ci­sion to launch a protest cam­paign af­ter de­cid­ing that the govern­ment-an­nounced ju­di­cial com­mis­sion is a po­lit­i­cal bo­gey.

15. The names found in the se­cret files range from those of Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif’s fam­ily to Pun­jab Chief Min­is­ter Shah­baz Sharif’s rel­a­tives; from Be­nazir Bhutto to Javed Pasha; from Sen­a­tor Rehman Ma­lik to Sen­a­tor Os­man Sai­ful­lah’s fam­ily; and from Waseem Gulzar (a rel­a­tive of the Chaudhrys of Gu­jrat) to Zain Sukhera, who was co-ac­cused with for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Yusuf Raza Gi­lani’s son in the Hajj scan­dal.

16. Busi­ness­men fea­tured in the record range from ho­tel ty­coon Sadrud­din Hash­wani to real es­tate czar Ma­lik Riaz Hus­sain’s son; from the Hus­sain Da­wood fam­ily to the Ab­dul­lah fam­ily of Sap­phire Tex­tiles, Gul Muham­mad Tabba of Lucky Tex­tiles as well as Shahid Nazir of Ma­sood Tex­tiles and from Zul­fiqar Ali Lakhani to Zul­fiqar Paracha.

17. As the po­lit­i­cal his­tory in Pak­istan goes, Has­san and Hus­sain Nawaz have so far shown lit­tle in­ter­est in pol­i­tics. Has­san and Hus­sain both have lived abroad since Oc­to­ber 1999. So they are responsible for their own busi­ness con­cerns, and not on the be­half of their fa­ther who leads the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship of PML-N in Pak­istan through demo­crat­i­cally elected process. In­te­rior Min­is­ter Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan jus­ti­fi­ably has said at a re­cent press con­fer­ence that the two sons of the prime min­is­ter are there to de­fend their over­seas busi­ness in­ter­est which has got noth­ing to do with their fa­ther who is a groomed politi­cian hav­ing all loy­al­ties with Pak­istan.

18. Al­though PML-N govern­ment has ad­dressed a let­ter to reg­is­trar Supreme Court, re­quest­ing the chief jus­tice to con­sti­tute an in­quiry com­mis­sion un­der an old law to look into the ve­rac­ity of al­le­ga­tions of si­phon­ing off money from Pak­istan to the ac­counts of Panama based off­shore com­pa­nies. The TORs also ex­plain the am­bit of the probe of in­quiry com­mis­sion, but the op­po­si­tion par­ties led by Im­ran Khan are still un­happy, fear­ing vin­di­ca­tion of PM Nawaz Sharif. What ac­tu­ally can en­sure vin­di­ca­tion of Nawaz Sharif from this po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion can be listed as fol­lows:

a. Prime Nawaz Sharif should reestab­lish his pub­lic con­tacts with his elec­torates in all parts of the coun­try, high­light­ing what his govern­ment has done on ex­pand­ing the de­vel­op­ment and em­ploy­ment base of the coun­try.

b. As to how his govern­ment plans to en­gage the ed­u­cated youth com­ing outof a mush­room growth of uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges in Pak­istan who fi­nally can act as his po­lit­i­cal de­liv­er­ers.

c. Mean­while, Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif should inspire and beef up his ad­min­is­tra­tive ma­chin­ery on me­dia count to come out with a multi tracked com­mu­ni­ca­tion plan to take the peo­ple into con­fi­dence which ex­plic­itly fo­cuses the de­vel­op­ment part of what his govern­ment is go­ing to put in place dur­ing the re­main­der of his po­lit­i­cal ten­ure.

d. Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif should look 24/7 do­ing pos­i­tive gov­er­nance, ad­vis­ably not re­ly­ing on Pun­jab-cen­tric po­lit­i­cal and man­age­rial re­source. He needs to di­ver­sify his man­age­ment and gov­er­nance team draw­ing upon flow­ers from the length and breadth of the coun­try.

e. Since the fam­ily of Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif is con­spic­u­ous due to its po­lit­i­cal pro­file, his po­lit­i­cal pro­file needs to be var­ie­gated, at­tract­ing team work­ers and man­agers both from all sec­tions of the polity which com­pul­so­rily should re­flect that his sup­port base is not re­stricted to La­hore only.

f. Fi­nally, a re­newed vote of con­fi­dence from par­lia­ment will strengthen PM Nawaz Sharif in re­gain­ing what­ever has been lost dur­ing last three years.

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