The Telegraph
Monday , July 17 , 2017

Sharif's Panama pain is godsend for Imran

Imran Khan

Islamabad, July 16: Imran Khan, the Pakistani cricket star turned politician, believes his moment of political triumph has finally arrived.

On Monday, the country's Supreme Court will begin a series of hearings in a highly anticipated corruption case that could result in the removal of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office.

"I think he is gone," Khan said of Sharif, his bitter political rival. "The long, dark night is finally over."

But a top aide to the Prime Minister said that a verdict resulting in such a removal would be "a judicial coup".

For more than a year, Sharif has been mired in a bruising controversy over revelations that his family owns expensive residential properties in London through offshore companies. The information first surfaced last year in the leaked Panama Papers and was vehemently denied by Sharif.

A team of investigators, which included civil and military officials, completed its inquiry in the past week and concluded that Sharif, his two sons and a daughter had not been truthful about their offshore wealth. In a damning report, the investigators accused the members of the ruling family of living beyond their means, hiding their assets, perjury and forgery.

Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif produced a forged trust deed about the London apartments. The 2006 document claims that she was only a trustee and not owner of two offshore companies that bought the apartments. But investigators say it was typed in Calibri font, which was not commercially available to the public until 2007.

Nawaz Sharif

Khan has pestered Sharif and his family to provide the paper trails for the purchase of the apartments.

"Show the receipts," is a common slogan of Khan's supporters and party workers.

On Monday, when the Supreme Court convenes, it could order the opening of a criminal investigation against the Prime Minister and his children after they are given a chance to respond to the investigation. But Khan is hoping that the justices, after having gone through the investigative report, will immediately remove Sharif under Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution, which calls for the disqualification of any lawmaker found to be dishonest.

Government officials, on the other hand, say that they expect a prolonged bitter legal battle.

Khan said of Sharif on Saturday: "I hope next week is his last week. You know that Elton John song 'Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road' - I am hoping there will be a big goodbye reception for Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad next week."

Sharif - who managed to survive huge street protests last year and in 2014, when Khan and his supporters laid siege to the capital for several months - has refused to buckle under the legal and political pressure.

The controversy has been a godsend for Khan who has relentlessly campaigned against Sharif ever since he took office in 2013 and has been on a personal crusade to remove him from office.

There is already an air of celebration at Khan's hillside Mediterranean-style villa on the outskirts of Islamabad. Politicians are lining up to join his party. Every day, dozens of sport utility vehicles belonging to influential hopefuls choke the street outside his house, which also serves as his political office.

New York Times News Service

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