Posts Tagged ‘Panama Papers’

Upcoming US ‘Kremlin Report’ release worries Russian elites

January 24, 2018

The US government is set to present its “Kremlin Report” to Congress detailing oligarchs’ close ties to President Vladimir Putin. Whose names will appear in the document and will its release result in new sanctions?

Red Square, Moscow (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Stache)

One week before “day zero,” political heavyweights in Russia have gone on the offensive. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a Sunday interview that the government and the president had “taken all necessary precautions.” On the same day, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov agreed that his country’s foreign policy was supported by the Russian people and that any attempt to change that, “by putting pressure on the country’s elite,” was doomed to failure.

An election time bomb

For weeks, Russians have been wondering what exactly will appear in the so-called Kremlin Report that the US government is set to present to Congress on January 29.

When Congress passed sanctions against Washington’s adversaries Russia, Iran and North Korea in the summer of 2017, lawmakers added a built-in time bomb to those measures affecting Russia. They ordered the secretary of the treasury to deliver a detailed report to Congress no later than 180 days from the date on which the bill was passed. That deadline is approaching – whether intentional or not – in the middle of Russia’s presidential election campaign. Observers agree that Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin will, in all likelihood, be victorious in the March vote. The report takes aim at the elites that have loyally supported him.

Names, holdings and relatives

The sanctions bill was part of Washington’s response to Russian activity in Ukraine — and even more so — to Russian attempts to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election; an accusation that Moscow denies. The Kremlin Report will likely exceed everything that has so far transpired in the worsening sanctions spiral that began with the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. The report aims to put the entirety of Russia’s financial elite under the magnifying glass, meticulously listing individuals according to their wealth and proximity to the Kremlin. The criteria are formulated in broad terms. Authorities are looking at wealth, business dealings and relatives — parents, wives, children and siblings.

Putin election advertisement (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Sadulayev)The Kremlin Report comes as Putin is seeking re-election for a fourth term as president

Those affected are not just oligarchs currently close to the Kremlin but also those who held sway previously. Moreover, Russian connections to top-level US businesses are also to be described in detail and the effect of possible sanctions evaluated. The report is due to be partially published, with the rest remaining classified.

Clues from the ‘Panama Papers’

A number of Russian media outlets have speculated that as many as 50 oligarchs and their relatives could be named. That would suggest as many as 300 people. Other sources have said that tens of thousands of names could appear.

Daniel Fried of the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank, believes the list will not be quite that long. “This is not simply about wealthy Russians, but rather those who have ties to Putin,” he said. “Putin’s inner circle and his business dealings will be laid open in the report, and he cannot do anything to stop it from happening.” Fried previously worked at the State Department coordinating sanctions policy.

Fried’s Atlantic Council colleague Anders Aslund, an expert on the US economy, is convinced that the report will not simply provide already known names but will instead present of a number of previously unnamed oligarchs. Moreover, Aslund suggests that the report will contain two new groups. One, he says, will include those people who “keep cash for Putin,” like cellist Sergei Roldugin, a longtime friend of the president from his days in Saint Petersburg. Roldugin’s heretofore unknown billions came to light when the “Panama Papers” were published in 2016. Aslund says the other group will likely consist of the children of Putin associates, many of whom have received lavish payments and been awarded lucrative government posts. Aslund says the aim of the Kremlin Report is to divide Russia’s elites.

Sergei Roldugin, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev (Imago/Itar-Tass)Roldugin (left) is a longtime friend of Putin

The end of an era?

Renowned Moscow foreign policy expert Lilia Shevtsova believes the report will sow discontent and doubt. Nevertheless, she does not foresee the oligarchs rebelling against Putin. The Kremlin Report will “end a 20-year geopolitical era” which has seen Russian elites simultaneously “integrating into the West, while at the same time railing against it,” Shevtsova said. “The model was to make money in Russia and then to spend it in the West with the help of lobbyists.” According to her, that system has become untenable and the report is the basis for a new US deterrence policy toward Russia.

Although the report does not directly call for sanctions, Fried noted, it will nonetheless make life more difficult for those touched by it. “I think the report will raise the possibility that others will be added to it in the future,” he said. “And that will lead to image problems for Western businesses and banks should they continue working with those people.”

A conundrum for Russia’s elites

Aslund points to the fact that Putin met with top managers twice last year — in September and December as opposed to one customary year-end meeting — as evidence of just how seriously Moscow takes the report. Furthermore, he says that there were many more people in attendance than is usually the case. Another indicator of the nervous demeanor of Russian elites is the skyrocketing number of Russian businessmen applying for residency permits for themselves and their families in Malta, an EU member state.

Russlaia Zapad war games (Imago/ITAR-TASS/A. Novoderezhkin)Could sanctions extend beyond oligarchs and target Russia’s arms industry?

A portion of Russia’s financial elite seems to be facing a dilemma: Namely, whether to repatriate cash back to Russia from abroad to protect it against sanctions, or to do exactly the opposite and flee to the West. Both seem to be happening at the moment, according to Russian and Western business circles.

In reality, however, it is not just Russia’s elites that will be affected by possible US sanctions. Washington is weighing the option of going after Russian arms manufacturers as well. Greece’s powerful Alpha Bank, for instance, recently announced it would cease doing business with Russian arms companies out of respect for US sanctions. Russian media outlets are reporting that the Kremlin is in the midst of creating a new state-run bank as a way to protect the country’s arms industry from sanctions. That is just one of the precautionary measures that Putin spokesman Peskov was referring to.


Putin and his inner circle valued at nearly £18bn but report finds ‘no obvious explanation for their hidden wealth’ — And in China?

October 26, 2017

Close friends of Russian President may hold wealth on his behalf, report claims

By Niamh McIntyre

The Independent
October 26, 2017


The combined wealth of Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s inner circle stands at nearly $24bn (£18bn) a new investigation has claimed.

In 2016, Mr Putin’s official income was was reported at just $133,000 and he has repeatedly denied he is one of the world’s wealthiest men.

But a joint investigation by Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), has valued him at considerably more, although it suggested that his wealth may be tied up in a series of “proxies”.

Some of the President’s inner ring have “no obvious explanation for their hidden wealth”, according to the report.

“These proxies’ wealth may be accounted for by the simplest explanation: It may really be Putin’s money. But in Russia, nothing is simple,” the authors wrote.

One alleged “proxy” is Mikhail Shelomov, a relative of Mr Putin, who works at a Russian shipping company for a job which would usually pay around $8,500 a year.

Mr Shelomov is a major investor in a new race track near St Petersburg, and has a personal wealth of $573m according to OCCRP, as well as links to the state energy giant Gazprom.

A childhood friend of the President, Pyotr Kolbin, a former butcher, has amassed a personal fortune of $550m – despite telling the Russian press he is “not a businessman”.

Roldugin, the cellist, was already known. But what about Mikhail Shelomov? The guy’s so low-profile, we couldn’t even find a photo. /6

He works a modest job and earns a modest salary. But he’s worth almost $600 million – while knowing little about his own companies. /7

William Browder, a US-born anti-Putin campaigner, told OCCRP Mr Shelomov, Mr Kolbin and other cronies were “nominees” who formally own assets, while really holding them in trust for Putin. While Mr Kolbin has been sanctioned by the United States, Mr Shelomov, who keeps such a low profile the OCRUP could not find any photograph of him, has so far escaped the penalties.

The investigation has not been widely reported in Russia, which is currently ranked 148 out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index.

Not too long ago this issue was a big story in China:





Former Pakistan PM Challenges Disqualification by Court

August 15, 2017

ISLAMABAD — A Pakistani official says former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has filed petitions with the Supreme Court to challenge his disqualification and removal from office.

Environment Minister Mushahidullah Khan, who is in Sharif’s party, said Tuesday that the former prime minister’s lawyers filed three petitions to review the verdict.

The court disqualified Sharif after documents leaked from a Panama-based law firm showed that his family held previously undisclosed overseas assets. A five-judge panel last month disqualified Sharif, accusing him of concealing assets.

Last week Sharif held a series of rallies across the country, criticizing the court ruling and seeking to whip up popular support.


Ousted Pakistani prime minister starts defiant ‘caravan’ to hometown — “defiant show of political power” (Video)

August 9, 2017


AUGUST 9, 2017 / 4:53 AM

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif began a rally on Wednesday in a defiant show of political power after a Supreme Court decision disqualified him from office late last month over undeclared assets.

Sharif launched the “caravan” from Islamabad to his eastern hometown of Lahore, despite the concerns of close advisers about security for himself and the crowds he is expected to draw.

Thousands of Sharif party supporters thronged the capital to join in the rally, setting up camps along the route he is expected to take and address supporters.

“Nawaz Sharif is still our prime minister,” said worker Niaz Ahmad, who wore a lion look-alike costume, and chanted, “Lion, Lion!” referring to the election symbol of Sharif’s political party.

Sharif, 67, resigned during his third stint as prime minister after the Supreme Court ruled on July 28 that he should be disqualified. The court also ordered a criminal probe into his family over allegations stemming from the “Panama Papers” leaks of international offshore companies.

Pakistan’s new prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a close Sharif ally, said the former leader was alert to security threats.

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FILE PHOTO – Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gestures as he speaks to media after appearing before a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in Islamabad, Pakistan June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood REUTERS

“The bigger a leader is, the bigger the threat is,” Abbasi told domestic Geo TV.

Sharif was seen off in Islamabad by Abbasi, the new cabinet and other party officials, Sharif’s political adviser Asif Kirmani said.

“We really don’t know how long it will take, how many days, we have no idea,” Kirmani told reporters.

He said a huge number of people were waiting for Sharif along the Grand Trunk Road linking the capital, Islamabad, with Lahore, which is about 380 km (237 miles) distant.

Sharif, in recent meetings with party leaders, lawyers and media, has expressed his displeasure over the court ruling.

He said no corruption charges had been proved, and it was unfair to disqualify him on the grounds of not having declared a salary from his son’s Dubai-based company among a list of assets submitted ahead of the 2013 elections that brought him to power.

Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, which has a solid majority in parliament, elected Abbasi as his replacement within four days.

Party leaders have recently suggested that Abbasi is expected to hold office until elections due next year, a reversal of earlier indications that Sharif’s younger brother, Shahbaz, would take over the office.

Shahbaz is now likely to replace his brother as party chief, since the ousted premier can no longer lead a political party, as Pakistani law bars such roles for any convicted or disqualified person.

Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Clarence Fernandez


Ally of Pakistan’s Ousted PM Nawaz Sharif Nominated to Replace Him

July 31, 2017

ISLAMABAD — A close ally of ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday submitted papers in parliament to become the new premier, part of a two-part plan by the ruling party for a smooth transition that will see Sharif’s brother take the reins later.

Former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is expected to be elected the new prime minister on Tuesday by Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party’s majority of lawmakers.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered Sharif disqualified from office last week over unreported income uncovered during a sweeping investigation of his finances.

The court also ordered a separate criminal investigation into Sharif and his family in its ruling, which Sharif’s allies have portrayed as political meddling but opposition leader Imran Khan has hailed as a victory for the rule of law.

Abassi on Monday stressed he would continue Sharif’s policies. His tenure is expected to last only about two months until Sharif’s brother, Shahbaz, becomes eligible to be prime minister by winning a parliamentary by-election.

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Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz. AFP photo

“Our party will succeed with our majority, God willing,” Abassi told reporters inside parliament after filing the official nomination papers.

“The policies we had until Friday, we will continue with that,” he added.

Sharif’s PML-N party won elections in 2013 and holds a majority of 188 seats in the 342-member parliament, so it should be able to swiftly install its choice of premier, barring defections from its own ranks.

Over the weekend Sharif said he was shocked by Friday’s Supreme Court ruling disqualifying him over unreported income from a company owned by his son in Dubai. Sharif said the monthly salary – equivalent to $2,722 – was nominal and he never actually received any of it.

Sharif’s two previous stints in power were also cut short, the second ending in a military coup led by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999.

Initially placed under house arrest, Sharif went into exile before returning to win a resounding victory in 2013 elections.

The Supreme Court employed the little-used Article 62 of the Constitution, which calls for the dismissal of any lawmaker deemed dishonest, to remove Sharif.

His allies believe the verdict smacks of judicial overreach. Others say privately that elements of the military had a hand in the process.

(Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Michael Perry and Clarence Fernandez)


Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to be nominated as interim Pakistan PM, say reports

Shahbaz, however, cannot immediately replace Nawaz Sharif since he isn’t a member of the Parliament. In order for him to be elected as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan, he will have to first get elected. In the meantime, an interim prime minister will have to be chosen who will eventually resign once Shehbaz becomes eligible for the post.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: July 29, 2017 6:19 pm

Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan PM, New pakistan PM, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi , Shahbaz Sharif, Panama papers

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will likely be the interim Prime Minister of Pakistan. Shortly after Nawaz Sharif’s exit, the ruling party PML-N proposed his younger brother Shehbaz for the role of the prime minister. Shahbaz, however, cannot immediately replace Nawaz Sharif since he isn’t a member of the Parliament.

Just a day after Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court from the Prime Minister post, Shahid Khawan Abbasi will likely serve as the interim prime minister for 45 days till Nawaz’s younger brother Shahbaz Sharif takes over as his eventual successor, reported Pakistan daily Dawn. Shortly after Nawaz Sharif’s exit, the ruling party PML-N proposed his younger brother Shehbaz for the role of the prime minister. Shahbaz, however, cannot immediately replace Nawaz Sharif since he isn’t a member of the Parliament. In order for him to be elected as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan, he will have to first get elected. In the meantime, an interim prime minister will have to be chosen who will eventually resign once Shehbaz becomes eligible for the post.

Shahbaz’s eventual election as the Prime Minister seems to be a foregone conclusion as the ruling party (PML-N) holds a big majority in Parliament. The Supreme Court court on Friday disqualified Sharif and also ruled that graft cases be filed against the beleaguered leader and his children over the Panama Papers scandal. Senior Pakistan Muslim League leader and former railway minister Khawaja Saad Rafique while speaking to media said the party will be holding a meeting on Saturday to discuss on candidates appropriate for the post of prime minister, party’s new president and members of the Cabinet. He was quoted by PTI as saying: “Different options were discussed in a similar meeting yesterday but no decision was taken.” Also Read: Panama Papers: Nawaz Sharif’s children’s offshore firms own 6 homes in London

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Geo TV reported that the ruling party has decided to appoint Shahbaz Sharif as Prime Minister in an informal meeting which went on for three hours. Abbasi, who is a former petroleum minister, will be appointed as interim prime minister until Shahbaz is elected as member of parliament, the report said. Also Read: Scanning Pakistani newspaper front pages on Nawaz Sharif’s ouster as PM

The final outcome will be announced by Nawaz Sharif in the formal parliamentary party meeting of PML-N which is taking place in Islamabad a day after he was disqualified by the Supreme Court.

During former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf’s time, politician Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was appointed as an interim prime minister until Shaukat Aziz, who was nominated by Musharraf, got elected by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam (PMLQ).

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to be nominated as interim Pakistan PM, say reports


Pakistan’s ex-PM Sharif names brother Shahbaz as successor — Ruling against him slammed by the media as a “judicial coup”

July 29, 2017


© AFP/File | The announcement charts a way forward for Pakistan after the Supreme Court ousted Sharif Friday after an investigation into corruption allegations against him and his family

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif named his brother Shahbaz, the chief minister of Punjab province, as his successor and nominated ex-oil minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as an interim premier in a defiant speech Saturday.The announcement charts a way forward for Pakistan after the Supreme Court ousted Sharif Friday following an investigation into corruption allegations against him and his family, bringing to an unceremonious end his historic third term in power and briefly plunging the country into political uncertainty.

“I support Shahbaz Sharif after me but he will take time to contest elections so for the time being I nominate Shahid Khaqan Abbasi,” Sharif said in a televised speech to his party.

The younger Sharif holds only a provincial seat, so must be elected to the national assembly before becoming the new prime minister.

Earlier Saturday the Election Commission of Pakistan confirmed fresh elections would be held in Nawaz Sharif’s former constituency.

Abbasi is set to be rubber-stamped as placeholder in a parliamentary vote, with Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz commanding a majority in the 342-seat house.

The opposition could also field a candidate for the premiership, though the nominee has little chance of getting sufficient votes.

Nawaz Sharif became the 15th prime minister in Pakistan’s 70-year history — roughly half of which was under military rule — to be ousted before completing a full term.

The decision sent his political opposition into the streets handing out sweets and beating drums in celebration.

But Pakistanis were divided on whether it set the country’s democratic progress back, with supporters, commentators and some corners of the country’s press slamming the ruling as a “judicial coup”.

– ‘Honest’ –

The court said in its judgement that it was disqualifying Sharif for failing to disclose his monthly salary of 10,000 dirhams ($2,700) from a company owned by his son in the United Arab Emirates.

Sharif did not withdraw the salary, court documents show, but the five-member bench ruled his failure to disclose its existence meant he was not “honest” — a requirement for Pakistani politicians under the country’s Constitution.

Opposition leader Imran Khan, who has spearheadead the push against Sharif, hailed the verdict as ushering in a new dawn for Pakistan.

But some observers slammed it as “political” and a “technicality”, with rights campaigner and lawyer Asma Jahangir telling private Geo television late Friday that the powerful military was using the courts to destabilise democracy.

The military had an antagonistic relationship with Sharif, who had made several overtures to improve relations with nuclear arch-rival India.

Sharif’s link to the UAE company was exposed as part of an investigation into corruption allegations against his family that erupted as a result of the Panama Papers leak last year.

The publication of 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca documenting the offshore dealings of many of the world’s rich and powerful implicated three of Sharif’s four children — daughter Maryam and sons Hasan and Hussein.

Claims about the lavish lifestyles and luxury London property portfolio of the Sharif dynasty played out for months in endless loops in the country’s raucous news media.

Bribery and other forms of graft are endemic in Pakistan. The PML-N has consistently and noisily denied the accusations, insisting that the dynasty’s wealth was acquired legally through Sharif family businesses in Pakistan and the Gulf.



With Sharif Gone in Pakistan, What Happens To China’s Investments?

July 29, 2017

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Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

China has a lot riding on Pakistan, that’s where its showpiece Belt and Road project is located


29 JUL 2017

China has been assured by Pakistan’s powerful military and politicians that its multibillion-dollar Belt and Road investments would not be disrupted by the landmark verdict on Friday that felled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, even though some of its investments could come under the widening corruption probe currently playing havoc with Pakistani politics.

Speaking at a July 12 conference, Pakistani Army Chief of Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa said it was his “dream” to see Pakistan become a middle income economy at the conclusion of the US$62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (Cpec) programme in 2030.

“China would likely urge the government, and the military for that matter, to move as quickly as possible to effect a peaceful transfer of power. China has a strong incentive to see through a smooth transition, and Pakistan, because of the deep significance it ascribes to Cpec, does as well,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asian programme at The Woodrow Wilson Centre.

Sharif was disqualified after the court invoked character-related clauses in the constitution against him for lying about the source of finances channelled through offshore Panamanian companies into luxury apartments in the prestigious Mayfair area of London.

Panama papers: defiant Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif lashes out at ‘slander’ of family as panel probes wealth

The Sharif family’s offshore companies came to light after the leaking of Panama Papers documents in April 2016 from the legal firm Mossack Fonseca. The court ordered the government’s National Accountability Bureau to prepare charges of corruption, money laundering and fraud against Sharif and his three adult children. An accountability court will deliver its verdict on the charges by mid-October.

Finance minister Ishaq Dar, the architect of Pakistan’s economic recovery from a decade-long Taliban insurgency, was also disqualified from holding public office and faces separate corruption charges.

Friday’s verdict has raised the prospect of a broader judiciary-driven process of accountability against elected politicians, including Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of populous Punjab province, who has played a leading role in Cpec negotiations. As the brother of the dismissed prime minister, he is a leading contender to succeed him.

The Supreme Court is already hearing a petition under the constitution’s character-related clauses against opposition leader Imran Khan, one of three politicians to petition the court against Nawaz Sharif.

“The Chinese will be somewhat concerned at the moment. Although Beijing has a good working relationship with all the major political parties in Pakistan, they would prefer a degree of stability and continuity in order to make the execution of the Cpec projects as smooth a process as possible,” said Andrew Small, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund and author of the The China-Pakistan Axis.

Despite the assurances it has received, the court’s ruling has put China in a “peculiar position”, said Arif Rafiq, non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute, a US think tank.

Sharif was disqualified after the court invoked character-related clauses of Pakistan’s constitution against him for lying about the source of finances channelled through offshore Panamanian companies into luxury apartments in the prestigious Mayfair area of London. Photo: Reuters

“The Chinese are treading into new waters: this is the first civilian government in Islamabad Beijing has fully invested in. [But] while the Communist Party of China is deeply leveraged in the civilian government, military-to-military ties also continue to strengthen,” he said.

Nonetheless, some Cpec projects are bound to be investigated because of existing allegations of corruption linked to the Sharifs.

“Some projects, such as the Port Qasim Coal Power Project, could come under greater scrutiny given the involvement of power brokers allegedly connected to Sharif family financial improprieties,” Rafiq said.

Pakistan’s dependence on China for much of its defence needs against common rival India would reinforce its commitment to Cpec, which is forecast to drive GDP growth to 6 per cent by the completion of US$19 billion of projects by the end of fiscal year 2019-20.

“With the US-Pakistan relationship in decline, and with the PLA’s technological capabilities having improved so much, this now matters even more to Pakistan than it did when the US was seen as the critical supplier of high-end conventional equipment,” Small said.

Likewise, Pakistan is being upheld by Beijing as a model for the deeper, expanding security relationships China is seeking to establish around the world.

More than 20,000 rally in Islamabad, calling for Sharif to resign as PM

“Add to this the increasingly challenging Sino-Indian relationship and Chinese concerns about stabilising its western periphery in the context of the situation in Xinjiang and you have several reasons for the obvious deepening of Sino-Pakistani ties in the last couple of years – which I would expect to continue,” Small said.

Pakistan also needs China’s diplomatic support amid rising tensions with the US over Afghanistan, which has already seen Washington withdraw subsidies for American military hardware. The Pentagon last week withheld partial reimbursement for Pakistani counter-terrorist operations on the grounds that Islamabad had not acted to prevent cross-border terrorist attacks by the Taliban and other militant groups on Indian forces in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi last month shuttled between Pakistan and Afghanistan to reduce tensions over the failure of both countries to prevent cross-border terrorist attacks from their respective territory. His efforts led to agreements on the verification of counter terrorism operations by China and the US.

China has repeatedly blocked Indian moves in the United Nations Security Council to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism. It has also vetoed India’s US-backed attempts to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which would grant international legitimacy to its strategic weapons programme but withhold it from Pakistan.

“Beijing has come to bat for Islamabad in international forums many times in the past few years, even as Western and Indian observers had expected the Chinese to join in on a campaign to pressure Pakistan,” Rafiq said.


Pakistan High Court Disqualifies PM From Serving

July 28, 2017

ISLAMABAD — The Latest on developments in Pakistan (all times local):

12:25 p.m.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from serving because of allegations of corruption.

Friday’s decision by a five-judge panel of the court was not surprising as many legal experts and opposition leaders were expecting punitive measures against Sharif and his family.

It is not the first time the judiciary has ordered dismissal of the elected prime minister. In 2012, the court convicted the then-Premier Yusuf Raza Gilani in a contempt case, forcing him to step down.

The current case against Sharif and his family dates back to 2016, when documents leaked from a Panama-based law firm indicated that Sharif’s sons owned several offshore companies.

Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz at the time acknowledged owning offshore companies but insisted they used legal money to set up businesses abroad.



Pakistan Court Is Set to Rule on Political Fate of PM Sharif

July 28, 2017

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s Supreme Court is set to announce its much-awaited decision on the political fate of beleaguered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after weighing whether adequate evidence existed to dismiss him from office on allegations of corruption against his family.

Fawad Chaudhry, a lawyer for petitioner Imran Khan, said Friday they will accept any decision by the court.

Sharif has been under pressure to resign since 2016 when leaked documents from a Panama-based law firm disclosed his family’s offshore accounts. In April, the court acting on petitions from the opposition set up a six-member team to probe the allegations.

The investigation concluded a “significant disparity” existed between Sharif family’s declared wealth and its known sources of income.

Under Pakistani law, the Supreme Court has the authority to dismiss the prime minister.



Opposition Hopes To Remove Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — Forensic experts close in

July 16, 2017

LAHORE, Pakistan — Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is facing increasingly loud calls to resign as an official investigation into allegations of corruption by him and his family continues to unfold.

And now, the fate of the political dominance of the Sharif family may hinge on a Microsoft font: Calibri.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court set up a five-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in April to investigate allegations of financial corruption that surfaced following the release of the infamous Panama Papers.

Image: Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Shari
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif speaks to media after appearing before an anti-corruption commission in Islamabad on June 15, 2017. Aamir Qureshi / AFP – Getty Images

Sharif was not named in the Panama Papers leak, but his three adult children were linked to numerous offshore accounts that also owned luxury apartments in London’s exclusive Mayfair area. In a months long trial, opposition leaders alleged that the money used to buy the real estate was earned through corruption.

The JIT finally presented their scathing 275-page report looking into the allegations to the Supreme Court on July 10. It charged that Sharif, his sons and daughter had engaged in irregular finances, forgery and perjury.

“There exists a significant disparity between the wealth declared by the respondents and the means through which the respondents had generated income from known or declared sources,” the report said, according to a partial copy released to reporters.

Related: Panama Papers: Offshore Assets of World Leaders Revealed by Leak

It also recommended to the court the Sharifs be tried for corruption through Pakistan’s anti-graft authority. The Supreme Court will take up the case on Monday.

As parts of the massive report slowly leaked to the press, the stock market tanked by more than 4 percent, the military declared its intention to stand by the country’s courts and Pakistan’s raucous media went into hyperdrive — predicting the end for Sharif, who is serving his third term as prime minister.

The opposition has seized on the allegations with Imran Khan, the cricket-legend-turned- opposition leader calling on Sharif to “immediately step down.” Other mainstream political parties have backed Khan’s demands for Sharif’s resignation and fresh elections.

Sharif explicitly dismissed the report for the first time on Thursday.

“The JIT report about our family businesses is the sum of hypotheses, accusations and slander,” Sharif said in a statement after meeting his cabinet meeting.

Image: Maryam Nawaz
Maryam Nawaz, daughter of the prime minister, arrives to appear before an anti-corruption commission in Islamabad on July 5, 2017. Aamir Qureshi / AFP – Getty Images

The extremely detailed report was drafted by five investigators, including representatives from the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) and the Corps of Military Intelligence (MI), with the support of foreign lawyers, forensic experts and international financial authorities.

Pakistan’s rowdy social media was particularly galvanized by the findings against Sharif’s daughter, Maryam, who is reportedly being groomed to take over Pakistan’s largest political party.

In an attempt to establish a complicated money trail to show that she is not real owner of the London real estate, but rather just a “trustee” of the properties, Maryam submitted a document dated 2006. The document was typed in Microsoft’s Calibri font.

The problem is, as the investigators noted in their lengthy report, forensic experts and even the creator of Calibri font say it was not commercially available as part of Microsoft Office until 2007.