Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Pakistan’s Hour Of Glory & Sri Lanka’s Hour Of Shame

Rajeewa Jayaweera
logoA five-member bench of supreme court judges in Pakistan, in a landmark decision, has disqualified Nawaz Sharif from the office of Prime Minister. Sharif’s disqualification is on grounds he lied of his assets during a corruption probe.   
The court has referred Sharif and his Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, his former accountant, to the Corruption Court.
Accusations against Sharif revolves around ownership of four apartments in Park Lane, a neighborhood of the wealthy, in London.
The Panama Papers, an unprecedented leak of 11.5 mil. files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca, indicated Sharif’s three children Hussain, Hasan and Maryam owned three off-shore companies registered in British Virgin Islands, engaged in deals worth USD 25 mil. 
The Sharifs claimed, money had been obtained from the sale of a steel mill in UAE and invested with the former Prime Minister of Qatar. Rejecting the explanation, the supreme court constituted a high-powered team to investigate the matter.
During the course of its investigations, the team uncovered the fact, Sharif himself had been the Chairman of a UAE based company, Capital FZE, which he had not declared previously.
The supreme court ruling, disqualifying Sharif from holding office is based on non-disclosure of his involvement with Capital FZE in wealth disclosures, mandatory for all parliamentarians in that country. It is Sharif’s contention, assets being in his children’s names, he is not liable to declare such assets nor pay taxes on such assets.        

Despite corruption being endemic in Pakistan and democratic institutions weakened due to successive coups d’état since independence in 1947, Pakistan’s judiciary, in this instance, has demonstrated its independence and unwavering commitment to the rule of law. It has also upheld the principle, ‘no one is above the law’.
In what is perhaps Pakistan’s finest hour since independence, it joins the small and elite group of nations of Brazil, South Korea, Venezuela and USA to have disqualified a sitting head of state / government from office, for corruption. 
Mossack Fonseca notified its clients on April 1, 2016 that it had sustained an email hack. Pakistan’s Prime Minister announced his resignation sixteen months later, on July 27, 2017.
Back at home, we in Sri Lanka are still grappling with investigating the Central Bank bond scam which took place on February 27, 2015 resulting in the loss of over Rs 10 billion to the state coffers.
Twenty-nine months on, the scam is being investigated for the fourth time.

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