Pakistan Army distances itself from Panama Papers probe against PM Nawaz Sharif

Islamabad: The Pakistan Army said on Sunday that it had no role in the investigation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family assets, asserting that it was "focused only" on safeguarding the country's security.

Pakistan Army spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor told reporters that the joint investigation team was formed by the Supreme Court, and it "did its job honestly. Its report will be examined by the court. Army has no role in the process".

File image of Qamar Javed Bajwa. AP

File image of Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. AP

Asked about the Sharif government's allegations that the Panama Papers scandal and the subsequent probe into the prime minister's family wealth was a "conspiracy" against the civilian dispensation, the spokesman said that the army was "only focused on the security of the country".

"There is no army involvement in the JIT," he asserted, adding that the "Pakistan Army will continue playing its role for the security of Pakistan with other institutions," according to a report in The Dawn newspaper. "Political talk is in the political domain."

The denial comes ahead of the Supreme Court hearing into the case, which begins on Monday. The JIT in its damning report submitted to the Supreme Court on 10 July recommended that a corruption case be filed gainst Sharif and his sons — Hassan and Hussain — and his daughter Maryam for evading tax.

The high-profile graft case is about alleged money laundering by Sharif in the 90s when he twice served as prime minister to purchase assets in London. The assets surfaced when the Panama Papers last year showed they were managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif's children.

Sharif, 67 has rubbished the report as a "bundle of baseless allegations", and said that an "unjustified campaign" was launched against his government soon after he won in 2013. "The people of Pakistan have elected me and only they can remove me from this post," he said this week.

The Pakistani military has always played a crucial role in the country's politics. It has ruled Pakistan for more than 33 years of the country's 70-year history.

Reports of disagreement between the civilian and the military leaderships this time dates back to 6 October, when The Dawn, in a front-page report, claimed that civilian authorities have warned the Inter-Service Intelligence spy agency to act against militants or face international isolation.

The rift was a grim reminder of 1999, when then army chief Pervez Musharraf had ousted the government of Sharif. Sharif is the only Pakistani politician who has the distinction of being the prime minister of the coup-prone country for a record three times.

He served as prime minister from 1990 to 1993, and from 1997 to 1999. Both of Sharif's first two stints ended in the third year of his tenure.

Updated Date: Jul 16, 2017 20:19 PM

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