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The Macabre Wealth

In 630, famine fell upon Arabia. By the time whole Arabic peninsula had been conquered by the Muslim armies and was living the most prosperous period it had ever seen. The supposedly intimidating conquerors kept to themselves. They relied on what they brought with themselves and were kind, upright and just. Now the time would test them again. The riches of the land couldn’t feed its denizens from the unruly famine. Wells dried up, food became a dream and cattle began to die.

Aid was sought from wherever one could muster it. Appeals were made and promulgated to four corners of the Islamic empire to soul their souls. It was these times when the shoulders that carried the brunt of this burden, Caliph of the Muslims, Omar bin Khattab RA passed by a nomad’s tent. Therein sat an elderly woman who offered him the hospitality as was the custom of the good bygone days when people had some sense of fellowship.

She carried on with her womanly ramblings about everything when she cursed the Caliph Omar bin Khattab RA for his irresponsibility. Apparently she thought it was his fault that he could not feed the poor of his jurisdiction. Despite his own ascetic living, this magnificent ruler in human history broke into tears. “How is he to know that someone living in such ruins need help?”, he asked solemnly. The woman looked at him not knowing who he was and retorted, “What kind of a Caliph is he if he doesn’t know how his subjects live under his reign?”

He shuddered and never ate a full meal until everyone had it in his reign again. Such were the people who brought us the religion that we take for granted. A panacea that has been reduced to fit a column in a consensus form.

Pakistan is the only nuclear power that was founded with the vision of having a homeland for the Muslims. Just like the battle of Badr, it divided brothers, uncles, sons, and daughters. The migration from darul kufr was made to a destitute land where people had to fight penury and woe to make a living for themselves. Guides turned out to be the con men and this time it didn’t take white foreigners to undertake the carnage. English had lived here long enough to breed an illegitimate dynasty of their own with a darker skin tone.

From private torture cells to judicial conniving and oligarchy to divide and rule, they plundered and looted their own in cold blood. As literacy rate took a nose dive to bottom their own offspring went back to countries where their real fathers came from. Money dipping with peasant blood bought them chartered planes, finest meals and luxurious yachts. Haute couture and dining manners were taught lest they bring with them the incivility of the human waste they set upon eliminating hundreds of years ago through colonization.

As they practiced their Machiavellian plots, the people became so desensitized and demoralized that they started accepting it as a pre-fated situation. Subtle words with delicate nuances were invented for the pleasure of these corrupt wolves.

Sharjeel Memon, one from the same lineage recently returned home after two years of escapade from the law along with arguably the most corrupt man on earth, Asif Ali Zardari, ex-president of Pakistan. He is allegedly guilty of defrauding public exchequer of Rs 3 billion. Man gratuitously shared his pillage with the voracious judiciary who set him free. People waiting to earn brownie points came out on streets and coronated him with a gold crown calling it the victory of the veracity. While people are dying under his nose in Thar desert from drought, waiting for the death that they wish came earlier than the inexorable agony they live through each day he basks in the radiation of his golden crown.

Islam came to this region with Sufis and merchants and erudite savants who literally took off the shirt off of their back to feed the poor and the heart-broken. It dignified the locals by talking them out of worshipping stones and slaughtering others to please innumerable gods. What a tragedy it is to see their kin ransack whatever they gave to this land. Haven’t they read or believed what Allah says in Quran?

“Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth? And let them not be like those who were given the Scripture before, and a long period passed over them, so their hearts hardened, and many of them are defiantly disobedient.” Surah Hadid (57–16)

Ranks of the Mystics

Historical revisionism and deconstruction have always been the tool of the victors to create a generation that would serve its new masters well. Sometimes it is achieved by using the traitors showered for their lax morality, at others, news ideas are forcefully imposed. One of the examples are the words of Lord McCauley who surveyed the education system of the subcontinent in his 1835 report for the British Parliament.

“I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.”

For years after pseudo-independence civil services system and English medium schools, this vision has become a reality. The deadly part is how deep it has penetrated.

It is a falsehood that Muhammad bin Qasim RA invaded 712 and it was the first interaction of people of the subcontinent with the Muslims. Long before the muslim merchants had arrived in the region. It is exactly because of these savants and mystics that Islam spread in great numbers.

The argument that Islam was spread by the sword must explain a huge population of Hindus in India today. If extermination and plunder were the goals, they certainly didn’t comply with it building roads, schools, hospitals and employing non-Muslim subjects.

Among these mystics, great Sufi saints single-handedly converted the downtrodden untouchables to the egalitarian and liberal religion of Islam. Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti Ajmeri, Data Ganj Baksh, Nizamuddin Aulia, Shah Walliullah and other blessed souls spearheaded the proliferation of esoteric chains of Sufism.

Like four schools or Madhhabs, Hanafi, Shaafi, Maliki and Hanbali, the spiritual chain of divine blessings were propagated by four chains of tassawwuf. They are known as Naqshbandia, Qadria, Chistia and Suherwardia, their name taken from their founding sheikhs.

A great many books were written on the nature of the soul and how to purify it from the adulteration of diseases of the world e.g. Envy greed, hate, miserliness and cowardice. All of them stem from an impure heart. Prophet SA’s hadith goes like this “Everything has a polish, and the polish of the hearts is Dhikr of Allah”.

These four great sheikhs not only polished the hearts but embedded these Barakat into their disciples. Many ways of doing this have been in use. From Dhikr of La Ilaha to Pas Anfas method, they all agree on some principles.

  • Before the soul starts traveling towards the higher stations it needs to illuminate these parts to be able to travel.
  • There are certain stations on this path and for all of them, strict following of Prophet SA’s sunnah and noble character is mandatory. There is no Sufism without following shariah.
  • Like cardinal parts of the physical body, the soul has its own parts called Lataif. Some of them suggested 5, some 7 and some 11.

Just like the worldly offices, these spiritual matters also use people in this world to run the divine affairs. Ghaus, Qutb, Abdal, Qayyum are some of the officers of this divine army.

The irony of the situation is how such sublime and exalted path of self-inspection and purification went into the hands of opportunities and clowns. Prostrating in front of graves, wearing crowns, lighting the pile of mud called graves was never what these great saints taught them.

These people arduously converted people who for centuries burned the widows alive with their husbands when they died. They drank cow urine and believed that a carved stone can give them sons they greatly need as opposed to the wretched daughters.

Today true Sufism is hard to find but at the same time, its never hidden from the seekers of the knowledge and wisdom. The path remains open. The prophecy that this ocean of light will never see a dark night, holds true. For some, this will be a heresy, for others, just what they were looking. As for me, nothing is upon us but to convey. The gift Allah gives you, tell the people about it.

How Pakistan’s Panama Paper’s probe unfolded

Plot twists, accusations and 25,000 pages of evidence — a snapshot of the case that will determine Nawaz Sharif’s fate.
April 3, 2016
Panama Papers leaked; Sharif family under spotlight
— Feica/Dawn.
— Feica/Dawn.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) makes 11.5 million secret documents available to the public for the very first time. The documents, coming from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, contain confidential attorney-client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities.

Eight off-shore companies were reported to have links with the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Chief Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif.

According to documents available on the ICIJ website, the prime minister’s children Maryam, Hassan and Hussain “were owners or had the right to authorise transactions for several companies”.

The leaks breathe a new life into allegations of corruption that the Sharif family has long been haunted by.

At the forefront of the battle is Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, lead by its chairman Imran Khan.

April 4, 2016
‘The leaks are God sent’ says Imran Khan

PTI Chairman Imran Khan and his party aides consolidate their position on corruption allegations against the prime minister, demanding immediate action by the government to respond to the allegations.

This marks the beginning of what will be nearly a year long effort to resolve the Panama Papers case, also dubbed ‘Panamgate’ in the local media.

Later that afternoon, Maryam Nawaz tweets what appears to be a statement from the Sharif family spokesman. They are calling the revelations made under the Panama Papers leaks, a “distortion of information”.

The statement goes on to clarify that “Maryam Nawaz is not a beneficiary or owner of any of the companies” named in the leaked documents.

April 5, 2016
Under-pressure Sharif announces probe

Realising that silence may deepen the crisis, Sharif takes to the Pakistan Television (PTV) headquarters to address the nation and clear the air. The prime minister begins his speech with a subtle acknowledgment of the fact that he is using state apparatus to address a personal matter.

Visibly perturbed, Sharif says he is open to the formation of a judicial commission to probe his family’s alleged finances in offshore tax-havens.

He explains how his family business was ruined by the party of the Bhuttos from the 70s to the 90 and then was slowly built up again. “On Jan 2, 1972, Bhutto took over the foundry in Lahore, and hence our assets were lost in mere moments,” Mr Sharif confesses.

“My family was not involved in politics till much later, as such, even before I got into politics, we were an established industrial family,” he explained.

The prime minister goes on to speak about how his father established an industrial plant in Makkah, following the military coup in 1999. The plant, he says, was “later sold, and my sons invested the funds into their businesses.”

Denying the legitimacy of allegations targeting his family and himself, the prime minister assures the country he is open to legal scrutiny.

April 10, 2016
Khan wants CJP to head commission

Khan wants the government to promptly form an inquiry commission led by the serving Chief Justice of Pakistan, Anwar Zaheer Jamali. To the contrary, the government is keen on having ex-Supreme Court judges populate the bench.

April 13, 2016
Five ex-SC judges refuse to lead inquiry

Still in its infancy, ‘panamagate’ begins to ingress into the judicial sphere, albeit turbulently. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan reveals that the ex-Supreme Court judges contacted by the government to head the inquiry commission have turned down the offer.

Nisar regrets: “All of these judges after taking the time to think over the matter refused to lead the commission without giving any reasons.”

April 14, 2016
Frail, Sharif in London for check-up
Nawaz Sharif's mother wishes him before he departs for London — Dawn
Nawaz Sharif’s mother wishes him before he departs for London — Dawn

Despite mounting criticism from local press and political parties, Sharif takes off for London citing a medical check up as the reason for this five-day tour.

A PML-N source reveals: “The prime minister was looking quite weak when he visited the Planning and Development Ministry a few days ago and the disclosures of his sons’ involvement in offshore business definitely had its political and health costs.”

The office bearer adds that apparently due to a mistake by surgeons during a previous medical procedure in London, Mr Sharif had bled profusely. He recovered, but not completely, and was advised to take breaks from his engagements for further treatment.

April 16, 2016
PML-N proposes ToRs
— Zahoor/Dawn
— Zahoor/Dawn

A government team headed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar finalises the terms of reference (ToRs) for the proposed inquiry commission being formed to investigate the Panama Papers leaks.

The ToRs are meant to define a scope within which the investigation would take place. Understandably, this is going to be a matter of contention.

Mainly the government’s ToRs looked at empowering the proposed judicial commission to look into the following points:

  • To examine information relating to involvement of Pakistani citizens, persons of Pakistan origin and legal entities in off-shore companies in Panama or in any other country.

  • Involvement of former and present holders of public office in writing off their own bank loans or those of their immediate family members through political influence.

  • Transfer from Pakistan of funds which have originated from corruption, commissions or kickbacks, and to determine whether, in any case referred to above, any law for the time being in force in Pakistan has been infringed.

Maryam Nawaz expresses annoyance on PML-N’s response not being “robust” enough. The meeting also reportedly resolved that: “If at all the commission is formed it will be the one headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court as announced by the prime minister in his address to the nation.”

Despite having been rejected by five ex-SC judges, the Muslim League leadership is still adamant to see a retired judge of the Supreme Court heading the commission. Rumour has it; retired judge Sarmad Jalal Osmany has accepted the responsibility to lead the probe.

The opposition parties, however, are still unclear on how best to go about the probe.

April 19, 2016
Sharif returns to Pakistan

Amidst political turbulence, Sharif returns to Pakistan, eyeing a difficult job ahead of him.

April 22, 2016
‘Will resign if proven guilty,’ Sharif in second state address

In yet another address to the nation, Sharif announces that his government has decided to formally ask then Chief Justice of Pakistan to set up a judicial commission for investigations into Panama Papers leak.

“I challenge all those who allege tax fraud to come forward and present evidence. If charges are proved against me, I will resign immediately,” vowed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Sharif appears visibly piqued and spares no one while targeting his political opponents; the ‘hostile’ media, the regime of Gen Pervez Musharraf and his allies. He reserves the bulk of his criticism for Imran Khan.

April 25, 2016
Opposition rejects govt ToRs

Rejecting the inquiry commission proposed by the government, leaders from the PTI, PPP, MQM, PML-Q demand the ToRs of any such commission be drafted in consultation with the opposition.

May 1, 2016
Bilawal asks Sharif to step down

Coming out strongly against the government, PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari calls on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down, until an inquiry into the money laundering allegations levelled at his family are completed.

“As long as the investigations into the Panama leaks are ongoing, you should resign. You can resume when you are absolved of the charges,” he said, reminding Mr Sharif of advice he had imparted for the former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani when the latter was facing multiple charges in court.

May 3, 2016
Opposition presents ToRs

After a joint meeting between opposition parties, a set of ToRs have been presented to the government and the media. The ToRs emphasise on initiating the inquiry into off-shore holdings, starting with the Sharif family.

Among other points, the ToRs enlist the following:

  • Whether a respondent, by concealing the ownership and source of income through which the properties were purchased has committed corrupt and illegal practices under the elections/tax laws.

  • A special law titled “Panama Papers (inquiry and Trial) Act 2016” should be passed to facilitate the investigation into the assets, both foreign and domestic, of the prime minister. The law shall be formed with the consensus of the opposition parties.

  • A special commission should be formed, headed by Chief Justice and comprising two other SC judges nominated by him.

  • The procedure of the inquiry shall be fully inquisitorial in character The commission should complete its inquiry in relation to the prime minister and his family in three months.

May 5, 2016
Govt rejects opposition’s ToRs

Rejecting the opposition’s draft of the ToRs for a judicial probe, the government indicated it was willing to sit with the opposition and to come up with ToRs that were focused on eliminating corruption and did not target the prime minister personally.

“The opposition wants the prime minister in the dock, without touching other politicians whose children also run offshore companies,” said Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, alleging that the opposition was not serious about holding an inquiry and only wanted to achieve their political goals by simply levelling allegations.

May 10, 2016
Raheel Sharif urges PM to resolve the Panama issue

Gen Sharif, according to a well-placed government source, conveyed a pointed message to the prime minister in a one-on-one meeting.

The army chief’s view was that the protracted controversy over Panama Papers investigation was affecting governance and national security and, therefore, the issue needed to be urgently brought to a close.

May 13, 2016
Supreme Court rejects inquiry commission

The Panamagate controversy takes a new turn as the Supreme Court returns the federal government’s request to appoint an inquiry commission to investigate the leaked document’s connection with the Sharif family.

“Formation of commission of inquiry under the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act 1956 (Act VI of 1956), looking to its limited scope, will result in the constitution of a toothless commission, which will serve no useful purpose, except giving bad name to it,” says a communication sent to the law secretary by Supreme Court registrar Arbab Mohammad Arif.

The letter also observes that the ToRs of the proposed commission are so “wide and open” that “it may take years” for the commission to conclude proceedings.

May 16, 2016
Sharif explains himself in landmark speech

The prime minister suggests the formation of a joint committee to draft the ToRs, which will establish the judicial commission he referred to in his first state address on the Panama Papers allegations.

In this speech, Sharif attempts to explain the ownership of his London Park Lane flats. Astonishingly, there is no mention of Qatari Prince Jassim.

The money used to purchase flats in London, he says, was linked to properties the Sharif family sold off in Pakistan decades ago.

‘Prime minister lied on the floor,’ Shah accuses Sharif

After the session, PTI says Sharif has mislead the assembly. “The prime minister lied on the floor of the house,” says PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

“We have rejected the prime minister’s speech and the chief justice has already rejected the ToRs prepared by the government. So we will see where do we go from here,” he adds.

May 18, 2016
Consensus to form ToR committee

After much back and forth, the federal government and opposition have agreed to form a 12-member committee in order to draft joint ToRs for an inquiry commission, which would probe the Panama Papers.

After a meeting with opposition members, information minister Pervaiz Rasheed said that government and opposition will name six legislators each to form the parliamentary committee.

May 22, 2016
Nawaz flies to London for heart surgery

Maryam Nawaz says cardiologists and surgeons carried out tests, following which they decided to go for an open heart surgery. The surgery will be performed on May 31, and opposition party leaders – including Imran Khan and Bilawal Bhutto – tweet their best wishes to Sharif. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also tweets good luck to Sharif.

Maryam dubs the surgery successful and thanks everyone for their prayers and good wishes.

My father …… The LOVE of my life … Allah bless you with a long life & perfect health …. Ameen ❤️

June 4, 2016
The ToR stalemate

The 12-member bipartisan parliamentary committee seems to have hit a dead end as both sides are not only refusing to budge from their positions on the issue of offshore companies but are also accusing each other of toughening their stance.

The opposition insists on starting the Panamagate probe from Sharif and his three children, whereas the government side wants to enact a law that would extend the scope of investigations but would not make any reference to the premier.

Opposition parties later in the month say they will take to the streets if the government doesn’t review its position on the ToRs.

June 24, 2016
PTI files petition with ECP against Sharif

PTI files a reference with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seeking disqualification of Sharif for allegedly concealing his assets.

Three days later, PPP also petitions the ECP to disqualify the prime minister and his family members. “The prime minister is not sadiq and ameen anymore and, therefore, is not eligible to hold a seat in the National Assembly,” says the petition, which also contains charges of money laundering, tax evasion and concealment of assets.

July 9, 2016
48 days later, Nawaz returns to Pakistan

Sharif returns home from London, kicking off discussions among analysts about what he should now do to secure his future as the chief executive of the country.

Nawaz Sharif is received at the airport. — Screen grab DawnNews
Nawaz Sharif is received at the airport. — Screen grab DawnNews

Upon his arrival in Lahore, the prime minister appears relaxed and lighter in weight than when he had left a month and a half ago.

The prime minister’s arrival also fuels discussions such as the one during which Mr Sharif had repeatedly been told about the need for having some formal deputies in place, minding the party and the government on his behalf, should the need arise.

July 12, 2016
PM advised to get tough with PTI
— Zahoor/Dawn
— Zahoor/Dawn

As he returns to work and is updated on the economic, security and political situation, Sharif is also determined to devise a plan to counter the PTI chief’s ‘propaganda’.

Khan had recently declared that he was now ready “to play the final round of matches” against the ruling party.

At the meetings in Raiwind, the prime minister is quoted as asking his advisers to prepare the ground for “multiple strategies” against opposition parties.

A PML-N politician from Lahore remarks that “the prime minister’s body language is that of a leader determined to stand firm against his opponents. He is in no mood to show leniency,” he says.

July 20, 2016
‘No more negotiations,’ says opposition

The opposition has decided not to negotiate anymore with the government over the ToR issue.

PTI had invited opposition parties to plot their future course of action after the government refused to accept their ToRs for a Panama specific probe.

Rather than adopting a hard-hitting stance against the government, opposition parties agreed to use their presence in the national and provincial assemblies to remind Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of his promise to hold a free and fair investigation into the Panamagate scandal.

August 3, 2016
Imran lashes out
— Zahoor/Dawn
— Zahoor/Dawn

Mr Khan regrets that four months had passed since the Panamagate made headlines, but not a single institution had moved or served notice on those whose names had appeared in the Panama Papers for allegedly committing money laundering and tax evasion.

In the run-up to the ‘movement for accountability’, PTI starts building pressure on the state institutions he believes are responsible for election rigging and rampant corruption in the country.

August 24, 2016
JI files ‘frivolous’ Panama petition in SC
JI chief presents a copy of their petition to the media — Dawn
JI chief presents a copy of their petition to the media — Dawn

Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Emir Sirajul Haq filed his party’s long-awaited petition on the Panama Papers leaks in the Supreme Court.

The petition doesn’t name Nawaz Sharif directly. PTI is expected to file a similar petition next week.

Four days later, the apex court returns the petition, terming it ‘frivolous’.

“This petition prima facie appears to be a frivolous petition within the contemplation of Order XVII Rule 5 of the Supreme Court Rules 1980,” says an order issued by the registrar office.

August 29, 2016
Seeking PM’s disqualification, PTI files petition with SC
Article 62, 63 of the constitution demand that parliamentarians be 'truthful' and 'honest'. — Zahoor/Dawn
Article 62, 63 of the constitution demand that parliamentarians be ‘truthful’ and ‘honest’. — Zahoor/Dawn

The PTI files a petition with the Supreme Court seeking disqualification of prime minister Sharif from his office as well as the National Assembly.

The petition was filed by PTI’s counsel Naeem Bukhari on behalf of party chairman Imran Khan. It has been filed against 10 respondents, which include Nawaz Sharif, his daughter, sons and government institutions.

Bukhari told reporters that their petition is based on the prime minister’s May 16 speech delivered on the floor of the National Assembly.

“A statement delivered on the floor of an assembly possesses prestige,” he said, adding that were a lot of contradictions between the facts and the claims made by Nawaz.

September 25, 2016
Imran urges followers to put up ‘country’s biggest ever demonstration’
— Feica/Dawn
— Feica/Dawn

Khan appeals to people to fully participate in his party’s September 30 march to Raiwind in order to put pressure on state institutions which, according to him, are not working judiciously on the Panama Papers issue.

September 30, 2016
PTI protests outside Sharif residence, demands Nawaz’s resignation
PTI supporters sit on the road to listen to Imran Khan's speech at Raiwind — White Star
PTI supporters sit on the road to listen to Imran Khan’s speech at Raiwind — White Star

Doubling the political pressure on Nawaz Sharif, the PTI leadership decides to invite its workers to stage a sit-in outside the residence of Nawaz Sharif.

On their call, several thousand supporters of the PTI from different parts of the country reach Raiwind Road to participate in the “accountability movement” seen by many as a “do-or-die” act of Imran Khan.

October 7, 2016
Khan’s next plan: Islamabad lockdown
— Sabir Nazar/Herald.
— Sabir Nazar/Herald.

PTI chairman Imran Khan calls on party workers to lay siege to Islamabad on Oct 30, telling them to paralyse the capital until Sharif resigns or presents himself for accountability.

October 10, 2016
Imran asks court for early hearing

In a bid to increase pressure on the government, the PTI has asked the Supreme Court to hold an early hearing of its petition seeking to disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his son-in-law retired Capt Mohammad Safdar and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for their alleged involvement in the Panamagate scandal.

October 20, 2016
SC accepts petitions

The Supreme Court of Pakistan started accepting petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf, Jamhoori Watan Party, Jamaat-i-Islami and others to begin the proceedings. “I welcome the judicial proceedings in connection with Panama Papers,” said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in reply.

In a statement issued after consultation with his legal team, he said, “The court of public opinion has been making decisions, it would be better to wait for the judiciary’s decision.”

October 28, 2016
SC forms a larger bench to formally initiate proceedings
— Zahoor/Dawn
— Zahoor/Dawn

The SC has formed a larger five-bench to hear petitions regarding Panama. Earlier, a three member bench accepted petitions filed by PTI and Sheikh Rashid, asking for the Prime Minister’s disqualification.

October 31, 2016
Imran’s lockdown threat inches closer to reality

Khan calls on supporters to gather in capital, but the numbers aren’t impressive. The government places shipping containers to block off routes from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa into Islamabad.

Khan rails against Sharif; government stands its ground.

November 1, 2016
First hearing: SC asks for ToRs, PTI calls off lockdown

It was win-win for all sides when the SC asked the government and the protesting PTI to present their respective ToRs, in case the court decided to constitute an inquiry commission on Panamagate.

— Feica/Dawn
— Feica/Dawn

The order allowed Imran Khan to save face and call off his plan to lock down the capital, while Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif accepted the formation of a judicial commission to investigate the Panama Papers scam, which has been a bone of contention between the two parties since the scandal broke in April 2016.

The apex court had, on May 13, declined to accept the federal government’s plea to appoint a commission of inquiry to probe the Panamagate scandal.

November 2, 2016
PTI holds ‘thanksgiving’ rally

November 7, 2016
Sharif children submit replies to SC
A caricature of Hussain Nawaz — Sabir Nazar/Herald.
A caricature of Hussain Nawaz — Sabir Nazar/Herald.

The Sharif children’s counsel, Salman Aslam Butt, informed the bench that Hassan Nawaz has been running a business lawfully for the last 22 years and Hussain for 16 years.

He added that Maryam Nawaz is not dependent on the prime minister.

Denying allegations levelled in the petitions, Maryam said she is not the beneficiary owner of off shore companies, Nielsen and Nescoll, but only a trustee.

November 14, 2016
‘Good for selling Pakoras‘: PTI submits evidence

The PTI and the AML chief are two of the four parties who have submitted their documents. Analysing the evidence will be a five-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali.

The court is currently considering whether or not to appoint a judicial commission to probe the Panamagate scandal.

The big question: how did Nawaz Sharif’s children pay for their London properties?

The Supr­eme Court questioned the quality of the evidence presented by PTI and deplored that their 680-page submission had almost nothing to do with the Sharif family’s London properties.

Pointing at PTI’s counsel Hamid Khan, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed observed that it seemed as if the petitioners were trying to bury the truth under their evidence that consisted mostly of newspaper clippings, which were only good for selling pakoras the day after publication.

Also read: #Panamagate

Prince Jassim of Qatar presents a different story

Prince Jassim — Reuters
Prince Jassim — Reuters

Like a rabbit out of a hat, PML-N counsel Mohammad Akram Sheikh pulls out a document dated Nov 5, 2016 — marked private, confidential and not to be disclosed to any party, except for the benefit of the courts of Pakistan — on the letterhead of Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al Thani, who ruled Qatar from 2007 to 2013.

The letter states that Hamad’s father — Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani — had “longstanding business relations with Mian Mohammad Sharif” — Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s father — “which were coordinated through my eldest brother”.

In the year 1980, “Mian Sharif expressed his desire to invest a certain amount of money in the real estate business of Al Thani family in Qatar,” the document says.

The Supreme Court is not pleased to hear yet another explanation for how the Sharif family paid for its London properties, observing that both sides were doing their best to ensure that the court would eventually have to form a commission to decide the Panamagate case.

“This document has completely changed the public stand of the prime minister,” Justice Asif Saeed Khosa observed after the Sharif children’s newly-engaged counsel, Mohammad Akram Sheikh, presented before the court an attested letter from a former Qatari prime minister.

November 30, 2016
‘Shahbaz forged signatures’

PTI’s lead counsel in the Panamagate case Naeem Bukhari, before the Supreme Court, alleged that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had forged his cousin Tariq Shafi’s signatures on documents.

Addressing a five-judge bench, Bukhari said, “I dont want to say that Shahbaz Sharif forged Tariq Shafi’s signature but there is a difference in the signatures on the affidavit and the contract.”

During the hearing, the judges also discussed the evidence presented by Bukhari gathered from news sources.

The court observed, “If we make a judgement on the basis of news sources, then the PTI should also be worried.”

December 9, 2016
CJ Jamali’s retirement halts proceedings

Procee­dings in the case have ended today as Chief Justice Zaheer Jamali is scheduled to retire. The Supreme Court said that arguments from both sides would commence afresh when hearings resume in January.

A five-judge larger bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa has been constituted by the Supreme Court to resume hearing of the Pana­ma Papers case from January 4, 2017.

December 31, 2016
Flipping through lawyers; PM’s children change counsel again

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his children submitted documents in the Supreme Court notifying a change of counsel in the Panamagate case.

According to the documents, Advocate Makhdoom Ali Khan will now represent Nawaz Sharif in court instead of Salman Aslam Butt.

Hassan and Hussain Nawaz will be represented by Salman Akram Raja, while Maryam Nawaz will be represented by Shahid Hamid.

January 4, 2017
New bench resumes hearing

The hearing of the Panamagate case resumed on Thursday where the five member bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, was appraised about details of the offices held by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his political career.

Naeem Bukhari, who represents PTI’s chief Imran Khan sought court’s permission to refer to a number of interviews of the Prime Minister, his spouse and children at different point of time to highlight that every one of them took a divergent stand about the ownership of the London properties.

Bukhari cited an April 10, 2000, interview of Begum Kalsoom Nawaz by Rory McCarthy of The Guardian in which she conceded that London flats were bought because her son was studying.

At this, Justice Saeed again cautioned the counsel that he was entering into a dangerous territory, adding that if “we start hanging people on television interviews or news paper clippings then your client will not survive either.”

January 6, 2017
Burden of proof becomes a sticking point

Members of the Supreme Court bench hearing the Panamagate case expressed divergent opinions over which side shouldered the burden of proof.

While Justice Asif Saeed Khosa — who heads the five-judge bench — placed the burden of proof on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family, Justice Azmat and Justice Ejaz, differed.

January 12, 2017
‘Two different money trails’ puzzle the bench

The prime minister’s counsel is quizzed about a money trail for the London flats and is asked to prove there were no inconsistencies in the prime minister’s speech in the National Assembly last year.

“There are two different money trails before us. How did the money go from Jeddah and then to London? And how did the money go from Dubai to London and then Qatar?” the judge asked.

January 13, 2017
Sharif family’s flats purchased in 1990s, BBC report reveals

Properties owned by the Sharif family in London’s upscale Park Lane neighbourhood were purchased in the 1990s and there has been no change of ownership since then, BBC Urdu has reported.

According to official documents available with BBC Urdu, the four flats were purchased in the name of the Nielsen and Nescoll companies.

According to the documents, an official record of companies doing business in the United Kingdom reveals that when Hassan Nawaz established Flagship Investment Ltd in 2001, the address he provided at the time of registration of the company was that of his Park Lane apartment.

Hussain had said: “The Park Lane apartments in London are ours, two offshore companies, Nielsen and Nescoll, own these flats and I am the beneficial owner of these companies, working under a trust held by my sister Maryam Nawaz Sharif.”

January 17, 2017
Maryam submits reply
A caricature of Maryam Nawaz — Sabir Nazar/Herald.
A caricature of Maryam Nawaz — Sabir Nazar/Herald.

The prime minister’s daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif submitted her reply to the court.

In her reply, she maintained that she was not her father’s dependent after her marriage in 1992 to Captain Safdar, and that she lived with her husband after her wedding.

January 23, 2017
German daily tweets trouble for Maryam

German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Monday tweeted documents to ‘help’ Pakistanis form their own opinion on the role of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter in Panamagate.

“For those in Pakistan who doubt the role of the prime minister’s daughter Mariam Safdar in Panama Papers – some of the documents. Judge yourself,” Süddeutsche Zeitung tweeted, along with attachments purporting to show her involvement with Minerva Financial Services. Maryam Safdar is her legal name after marriage.

January 26, 2017
Second letter from Qatari royal

A second letter is floated by Hussain Nawaz’s counsel, ‘clarifying’ Sharif’s investment in Gulf Steel Mills. The letter is accompanied by transaction details and auditor’s reports regarding the Gulf Steel Mills in Dubai and the Azizia Steel Mills in Jeddah.

Prince Jassim — Reuters
Prince Jassim — Reuters

“The investment was made by way of provision of cash which was common practice in the Gulf region at the time of the investment. It was also, given the longstanding relationship between my father and Mr Sharif, a customary way for them to do business between themselves,” the letter states.

“At the end of 2005, after receiving all accruals and other distributions made over the term of the investment, it was agreed that an amount of approx $8,000,000 was due to Mr Sharif. The amount due to him was settled in 2006,” the letter explains, “by way of the delivery to Mr Hussain Nawaz Sharif’s representative of bearer shares of Nescoll Ltd and Nielsen Enterprises Ltd, which had been kept during that time in Qatar.”

January 27, 2017
SC orders NAB to submit Hudaibiya reference record on Dar’s ‘confession’

As part of the Panamagate case hearing, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s lawyer Shahid Hamid addressed allegations against his client pertaining to the Hudaibiya Paper Mills default reference investigated by NAB.

Hamid read from Dar’s confessional statement in court: “After the military coup, I was first kept under house arrest then was offered a position in that government in exchange for cooperation. I was made to sign a pre-written statement and then was arrested again.”

“The army kept me captive till 2001, after which I told Rauf Klasra everything in a detailed interview and denied the statement that I was made to sign at the time,” he finished.

January 31, 2017
Supreme Court concerned over NAB, Qatari letters

As the Pamanagate case hearing resumed, NAB Prosecutor General Waqas Qadeer Dar was called once again to the stand and questioned why the ruling in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case was not appealed.

During the hearing, the five-judge bench also questioned the absence of any mention of the Qatari investments in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech in the National Assembly and in Tariq Shafi’s affidavit presented to the apex court.

“We were told that all evidence had been made available, and that perhaps it was we who were unable to see it in its entirety,” Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said in stern admonishment to Akram.

February 15, 2017
The Panama ‘onion’: PTI presents ‘new evidence’

The bench had postponed day-to-day proceedings after Justice Saeed had to be rushed to the Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology following chest pains on Jan 31.

“We are submitting three more documents — one from PTI chairman Imran Khan that authenticates all previous documents presented by the party, the expert opinion of UK-based lawyers and a document that proves that Maryam Nawaz is the owner of UK-based firms Minerva, Nielson and Nescoll,” PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry told a press conference.

“Where is the actual document to show that Hussain Nawaz, the elder son of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is the owner of the four London flats?” asked Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, a member of the five-judge Supreme Court bench who rejoined proceedings after recovering from a cardiac ailment.

— Zahoor/Dawn
— Zahoor/Dawn

The prime minister’s counsel argued that the petitioners had failed to link Nawaz Sharif to any wrongdoing, nor found any culpability.

They positioned themselves arguing that since no serious charge has yet been established against the prime minister except general allegations, there is no possibility of holding his children accountable for the allegations levelled by petitioners.

Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan regretted that the court was getting bogged down, describing the case as an onion, that yielded a new surprise every day.

“Every day, new documents and new queries are coming up. How shall we sum it all up?” the judge observed.

February 16, 2017
Surprise: Maryam trustee of London flats for six months, admits Maryam’s lawyer

The lawyer for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s sons sprang a new surprise before the Supreme Court by claiming that the bearer share certificates of the four London flats remained in the custody of Maryam Nawaz — the prime minister’s daughter — between February and July 2006.

Salman Akram Raja told the court that a trust deed was executed between Maryam and Hussain Nawaz in February 2006, following which she acted as a trustee for her brother.

The confession could prove to be a major blow to the Sharif’s case.

February 18, 2017
Consider Qatari letters void: Imran asks SC

Imran Khan has submitted an affidavit to the SC, asking it to ignore the two Qatari letters produced by the Sharif family as evidence of their stance in the case.

In the 24-page affidavit, the PTI leader termed the letters a wonderful example of reverse reconstruction, clearly concocted to cater to the issues before the apex court. The letters, he argued, were simply ‘unbelievable’ and an alleged puerile attempt by a rich Qatari to come to the aid of a rich Pakistani.

February 20, 2017
Record of Hudaibiya, Raiwind references submitted to SC

Today, NAB furnished the Supreme Court with records of two corruption references filed against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other members of his family over a decade ago.

One deals with the Hudaibiya Paper Mills scam, while the other related to the illegal construction of the Sharif family’s Raiwind Estate.

February 22, 2017
‘If a story has been made up, you should stick to it’

The Attorney General of Pakistan (AG) told the bench that the case record in the Hudaibiya reference had been examined and that the company had obtained loans through foreign currency accounts.

At this, Justice Saeed expressed the bench’s frustration by saying that the lawyers were issuing different statements each time, which was confusing the bench.

— Feica/Dawn
— Feica/Dawn

“If a story has been made up, you should stick to it,” he remarked.

“The court was told that investments had been made in the Qatari [royal family’s] businesses. There was no mention of foreign currency accounts in the repayment of loans.”

Addressing the AG, Justice Saeed said: “You should argue as the attorney general. Don’t become a party [to the case].”

February 23, 2017
Panamagate hearings conclude; judgement awaited

After both the defence and prosecution completed their arguments, the SC said it would reserve its verdict on the Panamagate case and issue a detailed judgement.

“It seems ‘justice’ is whatever serves [each party’s] interests,” Justice Asif Saeed Khosa remarked as the arguments wound up.

“If a judgement is not in someone’s interest, they [will] say the judiciary is corrupt, or that maybe the judges aren’t fit to handle such cases,” he commented, adding; “And if a judgement benefits their own stand [on the issue], they will say there can be no better judge.”

“We will decide this case only by the law; such that people will say, 20 years down the line, that this judgement was made by the book,” concluded Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.

Additional reporting by Nasir Iqbal, Irfan Raza, Tariq Naqash, Amir Wasim, Naveed Siddiqui and Haseeb Bhatti.
Header illustration by Fahad Naveed.

Chaiti Chand festival is still celebrated passionately by Sindh’s Hindu community

The Indus is a mainstay of the Indian civilisation. For the people of Sindh especially, its mythical status penetrates each and every aspect of Sindhi life. The mention of River Indus, or Sindhu, goes as far back as we can go in recorded history.

K.R. Malkani, a Sindhi Hindu who had to leave his homeland during the mayhem of Partition, notes in his book The Sindh Story:

In the beginning was the word. The first recorded word was the Veda. And Veda is just ecstatic about Sindhu, the cradle of Indian civilisation:

“Sindhu in might surpasses all the streams that flow,
His roar is lifted upto heaven above the earth.”

It is on the banks of this mighty river that rishis and sages have spent endless time contemplating the secrets of life and the universe.

Gradually, a cult of river worship developed in some of the areas where the Indus flows. The devotees personified their beliefs: Muslims would call him Khawaja Khizar, Zinda Pir, and Sheikh Tahir, while Hindus would evoke him by the names like Uderolal, Amar Lal, Uday Chand, and Jhulay Lal.

The people who follow the cult of river Indus are called Daryapanthis and their main centre is at Uderolal city, some 30km away from Hyderabad. The axis of the city is the shrine-temple complex; wherever you may go, it forms a skyline and reassuringly looms over the horizon. It embodies the spirit of Sindhudesh: the sharing of everything that is sacred, be it a Sufi shrine, a Sikh gurdwara, a Hindu temple, or a river deity.

The shrine complex at sunset.
The shrine complex at sunset.

The principle ritual is Chaiti Chand, which is both the birthday of Jhulay Lal and the celebration of the Hindu New Year. Chait is the first month of the Hindu calendar.

It sets in when the winter has gone and spring has also come to an end but the hot, gusty winds have not yet arrived. It is the time when wheat is harvested and fields are being prepared for cotton or paddy crop in the south of Sindh.

Jhulay Lal statue inside the Darya Lal temple in Karachi.
Jhulay Lal statue inside the Darya Lal temple in Karachi.

Even though most of Sindh’s Hindus have migrated to India, Chaiti Chand is still celebrated with religious fervour and a growing spirit of community. In fact, after Partition, when Sindhis in India became a de-territorialised community, Sindhi singer Ram Panjwani tried to bind them together in a sense of Sindhiyyat by projecting the image of Uderolal as the patron saint or Ishtdev of Sindhi Hindus.

A candle is lit inside a room near the shrine.
A candle is lit inside a room near the shrine.

The main rituals commence in the evening and a stage is set for people to participate. The mela starts with jyot jagayan, or lighting the sacred lamp.

The proceedings continue with a pooja just before sunset, performed at the sacred well of Balanbho sahib. Its water is believed to have healing properties. After the prayer, chhando is performed in which the water is sprinkled on the face. It is supposed to enlighten the spirit.

The Uderolal complex at night.
The Uderolal complex at night.

An integral part of the mela is the behrano parwan karan, or floating the behrano. Behrano is a huge brass plate that is decorated with flour, sweets, dried fruits, lamps, and rose petals. It is an offering to the river and the Daryapanthis believe that fish and other aquatic organisms eat the behranoand bestow blessings upon the devotees.

People bring the behrano to Uderolal from various cities like Mirpurkhas, Shahdadapur, Sanghar, Nawabshah, Sakrand and others. Traditionally, the behrano was floated into the Indus, but now it is offered to any water body or canal because whatever water there is in Sindh, it comes from the Indus.

Another ritual that takes place during the mela is called pallao payan. It is when devotees hold the hems of their shirts or dupattas and pray to Uderolal to solve their problems and deliver them from the ordeals of the world.

People offering their respects at the Udero Lal Dargah.
People offering their respects at the Udero Lal Dargah.

The proceedings end with the chhej dance performed by energetic men wielding dandia. The swaying movements resemble the waves of the Indus. The chhej starts with a low rhythm and gradually moves to a frantic pace.

As time passes, the air gets thick with the fragrance of rose petals and incense, and the men passionately chant:

Ayo ayo, jhulay lal
Jeko chawando jhulay lal, tehnja theenda bera paar

Jhulay Lal has arrived
One who would say Jhulay Lal’s name, his boat will safely reach the shores

It is followed by Jiay jhulay lal chants from the crowd.

For someone who knows that spaces for such activities are shrinking, the sight is at once exhilarating and a poignant reminder that perhaps all is not lost – at least not yet.

Animal hunting in Pakistan deserves no applause

This article was originally published on March 13, 2015.

An Italian national flew 5,157 kilometers to Pakistan, travelled 234 miles north to Gilgit-Baltistan, trekked through the mountainous terrain to a secluded wildlife conservatory near the Pak-China border, and paid $8000 to fatally shoot a sheep.

Verily, man’s place at the top of the food chain is finally secure.

Making rounds on social media, is news of the record set by Boieti Gian Carlo for hunting a blue sheep with 32-inch horns – the largest in Pakistan, and the second-largest in the world.

I admit that my snark-laden review of this incident is clearly tainted by my bias against the general concept of hunting animals for sport. I wouldn’t want to single out any hunter in my tirade against the greater culture of hunting, and glorification of men and women who partake in this “sport”.

I believe the significance of elaborate hunts such as these cannot be overstated in limning what’s become the grand philosophy of the human species. From the highest mountain to the deepest ocean, wherever our noble relatives of the animal kingdom may hide; with the unfaltering determination of Liam Neeson, we will find them, and we will kill them.

Why? Just ‘cause.

In fact, as this blog is being penned, I’m receiving word of a raiding party en route to the Mariana’s Trench, to search and destroy that last non-human species rumored to have been spared by poachers, man-made climate change, floating islands of ocean garbage, and our voracious appetite for meat.

It was different when our ancestors went spear-hunting to acquire resources necessary to sustain life. To some degree, I can even understand (though not happily condone) the animal deaths caused either directly for meat and fur, or through negligence in the pursuit of some other human goal.

What I’m particularly intrigued by, is the psychology behind killing an animal to savour the act of killing itself.

There is no real resource to be acquired, but rather, a staggering amount of resource to be spent on attaining the satisfaction of shooting a harmless beast as it insouciantly grazes grass atop a serene mountain. The only physical prize to come out of it is a severed part of its anatomy to be mounted on the wall, as a reminder of the blissful day one shot something dead.

When I say there’s resource to be spent, I mean it. The prized markhor – a rare wild goat with majestic spiral horns – costs a hunter a whopping $62,000 to shoot at.

And note that according to the rules, the hunting license is valid for a single shot only.

Saudi royals have been known to spend lavishly on Pakistani conservatories and affiliated towns to curry favour with locals, for their love of hunting houbara bustards.

Also read: Saudi Royal on Houbara Bustard hunting spree in Balochistan

There’s dark humor to be found in the fact that 80 per cent of the money made from selling hunting licenses, goes back into preserving biodiversity and maintaining our conservatories.

I wonder, if this utilitarian approach can be applied to impoverished human communities; to allow wealthy hunters to fire non-lethal darts at the Congolese people as they innocently work on their farms. But not to worry! The money from this cruel exercise would go back to providing food and clean-water to the good people of Congo.

Jeremy Bentham famously argued that it’s not a creature’s identicalness to the human species which determines the morality of harming it; it’s a matter of whether that animal can suffer.

The activities we enjoy and applaud make a statement about who we are, just as it did for the ancient Romans who cheered on grizzly, deathly combats at the Coliseum.

For those of us who venerate the sport of killing animals, that statement isn’t very comforting.

Correction: The article erroneously stated that 20 per cent of the money made from selling hunting licenses went to wildlife development. The correct figure is 80 per cent. The error is regretted and has been fixed.

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Faraz Talat is a doctor from Rawalpindi who writes mostly about science and prevalent social issues.

He tweets @FarazTalat

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.