“Behind every great fortune there is a crime”, an epigraph from Mario Puzo’s epic novel ‘The Godfather’, is how the Pakistan Supreme Court’s ‘Panama game’ verdict begins and the analogy is irking the Sharifs with the opposition milking it to drive home the graft allegations. The 540-page judgement begins with the quote that is originally attributed to 19th-century French writer Honore de Balzac. The use of the ‘Godfather’ quote itself is grabbing eyeballs particularly as it has been made in the context of the Panama game scandal in which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family have been accused of money laundering and corruption.
The Supreme Court bench in its April 20 verdict had also raised questions regarding the money trail related to the Sharif family’s Gulf steel mill. The ‘Godfather’ reference seem to be haunting Sharif with the opposition especially cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who is the chairman of Pakistan Tahreek-i-Insaf, using this analogy to drive home the “corruption and mafia” allegations against the 67-year-old premier. “The reference of Godfather in the Panama judgement is disturbing. We seek guidance from Quran and not Godfather,” Punjab Province Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said, adding that, “this analogy hurts us”.
He said the Sharif family was considering filing a review against such remarks by the apex court. “We are considering filing a review in the Supreme Court for expunging of certain remarks (including that of Godfather reference) in the Panama judgement. However, a final decision in this regard will be taken later,” Advocate Salman Akram Raja, a counsel for the Sharif family in the Panama Papers case, told PTI.
He said there were many past examples in which “adverse remarks” were expunged by the apex court. Those in the legal team of the Sharifs opposing the option of challenging the ‘Godfather’ and other adverse remarks were of the view that the Sharif family may not get relief because challenging certain remarks was like opening another Panama case.
“In case we challenge these remarks, any further adverse remarks by the judges may not only make headlines but also provide another opportunity to the opposition to target the Sharif family,” a PML-N lawyer said. Former federal law minister Khalid Ranjah said the Sharif family might not file a review considering various complications. “The whole judgement is full of adverse remarks about Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He may not get any relief from the apex court in this regard,” Ranjah said
This is the first time in the history of Pakistan that the Supreme Court has made such remarks about the sitting Prime Minister of the country, he said.
It is not a some kind of error in the judgement the premier was seeking to expunge, Ranjah said. “The premier has been declared dishonest and non-trust worthy in the judgement unanimously by all judges in the bench. Does the premier think he will get a relief on this in a review? If he does, he is seriously mistaken,” he said. It is for the first time in Pakistan’s history that a sitting prime minister will appear before a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing allegations of financial wrongdoing.
The Supreme Court was likely to announce the composition of the JIT in a couple of days. The Supreme Court has directed the JIT to complete the probe into Sharif and his children’s off-shore holdings and money laundering allegations within 60 days and furnish the investigation report before it for further action.