The noose is slowly but surely tightening on the Sharif faction in Pakistan. Evidence of that came this week as an investigation got underway against Pakistan’s incumbent finance minister, Ishaq Dar, in relation to the Hudaibiya Paper Mills money laundering case, which refers to a company that the Sharif family and its associates purportedly once used to ‘whiten’ money.
Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau, the country’s anti-corruption watchdog, took more than three years to appeal a 2014 decision by Lahore’s High Court to acquit the then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and several of his family members in a case that relates to 1.2 billion rupees (US$18.41 million) in unaccounted-for cash.
It was directed to do so by Pakistan’s Supreme Court on July 28, however, as the apex court delivered its verdict on the Panama Papers case against Nawaz, in which he was disqualified from serving in office. Even so, the Bureau failed to budge until September 20, when it filed an appeal declaring the LHC verdict null and void.
Dar gave a confessional statement against the Sharif family back in 2000. That made him an “approver” rather than one of the “accused.” He later recanted his confession, however, saying it was taken under duress – which contributed to the prosecution’s case falling apart.
Dar, who is technically still the country’s finance minister, has absconded on another case, and a nonbailable arrest warrant has been issued for him. The NAB court has recommended confiscation of Dar property at home and abroad and for him to be put on the country’s exit control list. It is known, however, that he has already left Pakistan and is currently holed up at an undisclosed location in the United Kingdom.
Dar later recanted his confession, saying it was taken under duress – which contributed to the prosecution’s case falling apart
Coming from a lower-middle class family, Ishaq Dar gained tremendous wealth and power in a short span of time. Following a career as an accountant, he entered politics in the late 1980s and became a government minister in 1997. Today, his two sons own numerous properties in Dubai (including the 39-story HDS Tower at Jumeirah Lakes) which are, cumulatively, worth billions of dollars.
The reopening of the Hudaibiya case against Dar in the midst of heightening friction between the PML(N) government and the judiciary makes the situation in Pakistan even more highly-charged. The ruling party has been in full-on attack mode with regard to the judiciary ever since Nawaz’s disqualification.
The bad blood was further compounded last week when the Supreme Court, rejecting review petitions from the Sharif family and Dar against its July 28 judgment, stated that Nawaz Sharif had “tried to make a fool of people, both inside and outside of Parliament and never came up before the court with the whole truth.”
A disgruntled PML(N) leader told Asia Times on condition of anonymity that the judiciary “has become a handy punching bag” for the party ever since the Supreme Court punished Nawaz for his failure to prove the legality of his overseas assets. He added that a number of senior party members were not in favor of further confrontation.