Beyond Seepage: The Panama Case

By: Amjad Ali Dadda

“Whatever comes out of these gates you have a better chance of survival if you work together. HOLD, HOLD, HOLD” Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator Movie.

There is a debate going on media whether the initial decision of Supreme Court of Pakistan regarding the formation of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) can be stated as a historic decision or not? From my understanding after looking the historic traditions within country and Panama Case early decision, I am very much convinced that this is historic decision with all its technicalities. A couple of examples beyond the legal verdict on the Panama case to elaborate my point, I would like to share from daily life events before making some views on Panama Case itself. I still remember the time when I was a school going kid living in my village with my peasant family and one day went with my uncle to check water flow that used to channelize from the earthen canal through small spiles called Mohgas into water watercourses up to fields and sometimes either your opponents would cut your water flow or there use to be seepage based damage on the sides of these watercourses which were made of earth. As we went on canal side my uncle asked me to check the canal side further than the site of the Mohga/opening on the canal. I checked and found no unusual activity yet suddenly my uncle start looking keenly on a wet patch on the outer bank side of the canal. He asked me to walk into the water looking interior bank to find any such hole with help of my hands. I was little surprised why he wants me to check thoroughly pushing into the muddy side, after a while, I declared to my uncle that I have not found any unusual flow of water making seepage. Still, on his insist I checked on a wide. My uncle later went himself into the water and start checking it, again and again, leaving me bit worried & surprised for all the waste of time.

Once he failed to find any hole after checking a reasonable area of interior bank side of the canal, he disclosed to me that now he was going to check the bed of the canal, as it was a secondary small canal so was not big and deep, he started checking the bed on the canal bottom. I was a bit annoyed with all this activity while thinking my uncle is wasting time and his effort is totally a useless exercise for no good reason. After an intensive checking with his hands and sometimes with his feet, suddenly he yelled “Amjad! I have found it and It’s a big hole in the bottom”. He instructed me to bring some wooden lodges which he put to block the flow of water and put enough mud lumps to block it. Once he finished doing that and was satisfied, He explained to me that such tiny holes or seepages at the outer sides of canal or watercourse are normally big at their origins. He also explained to me that these seepages on end sides are called “Roun” in Saraiki language and each of such seepage initially starts with a small hole in the beginning but turns into serious problems with passage of time. Further, he told me that seepages normally are not straight and sometimes their origins are hard to find as these can be traced little farther than outer seepage end.

The second example that I can remember, is also from our daily life, where if you tell this to any farmer or shopkeeper he will understand it quickly. As they are ones who encounter this almost every second day during their work. Maybe most of you also have such experience, that if you want to open a sugar, seed or fertilizer bags, where you just need to spend sufficient initial time to find a specific knot. Once you found that one rest becomes a matter of second to open the bag or sack that is closed with a sewn thread. If you are not aware of this skill then get ready to spend more time and in some case, one need to cut the thread as no other way to open the bag.

Now I will move towards a hot discussion of the topic about Supreme court initial verdict on the famous Panama Case in Pakistan. Without going into the legal details of the case, which for now are well explored and intensively discussed by many of the constitutional and legal experts along with political analysts. The whole of the Pakistani nation has been very keen to know and understand Panama case, especially its initial decision attracted even to those ones who were not politically or legally aware with the case. Scenes of protests, TV-based verbal wars, and then mouth filled with delicious sweets during celebrations which were observed around the country by all political parties which were involved in the case. It is interesting to find that everyone was in liking of the certain part which reassured their version and rejected rest of the Panama decision that was not in favor of their version. Whether it was majority verdict or conflicting notes everyone is aware what to pick and what not to pick.

With due respect, I would state that here are some important aspects of this decision, which unfortunately either are not being noticed by some of us or we want to take more time to understand such. If we go back to proceeding times when this case was being heard in the highest court of the country, we came through media that one or a couple of judges claimed that the decision of the case will be remembered for next twenty or even in one version for hundred years. It is also worthy to note that each party which celebrating their victory also look a bit disappointed as they think they do not see any essence of long lasting and viable impact-based decision. Even recently, Hamid Meer, one of the TV hosts and analysts shared his view on this point in his article. The question is if one or more among respected judges of Supreme Court of Pakistan stated such then as every second anchor in TV shows stating what happened to this point on the initial judgment. While a judge mentioned about famous movie “the Godfather” in the verdict I would like to get your attention toward another movie “Gladiator” where the hero of the film Maximus Decimus Meridius commands his fellow gladiators to do nothing but “Hold and hold” to get power over rivals in the arena. Surely, there is much more in this case initial decision than people are taking out of it, which for sure has lasting impacts, possibly as long as hundred years to come.

To support my point here, I would request all of us to refresh our memories and find what the case was about? Go and read and see what was the petitioner’s plea? Check what lead to the filing of this case in the Supreme Court of Pakistan? Surely, this case is linked to release of Panama Papers which accused (as not legally proved in Pakistan) our Prime Minister and first family for holding suspected offshore companies and four properties in London. Since, Maryam Nawaz TV interview with Sana Bucha in 2012 to the interview of Hussain Nawaz in 2016, PM speeches, ministers’ given explanations. Allegations, counter-allegations, but still everything revolved around four properties and to trace the origin of investment for these four properties in London, there were many versions about factories in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and one end of this money trail was found in Qatar, where it was submitted that sources of money are linked to an investment with a Qatari Sheikh.

In all these discussions, analysis, few points were missed by many analysts and commentators, one point is that Qatari sheikh never disclosed whether his father, brother or himself invested the money from Mian Sharif to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Dubai or London. Assuming, that the money going to Qatari investment fund was to be invested in Qatar is mere innocence. Again, assuming Qatari investment group does not hold, own or manages properties in London is another innocent view, which is again very popular these days when we watch most of the discussion on TV and in other media sources. I would not go into details of nature of these Qatari and other Independent wealth funds or their working around the globe. Anyone who is aware with Shard London, Central London property, business, other activities of Qatari investment fund must be aware what I am having at my point.

I will not comment toward many of the analyses and questions that stating whether these conflicting notes are important or not? Can I, discuss the far-reaching impacts of these conflicting or majority notes in the judgment? Surely not now. I will not counter belief of some that as two senior most judges came with conflicting notes, so these must be given more importance than the opinion and judgment of rest of the three majority judges. Neither, I will ask legal definition about what a judgment makeup must be in the law or how to see all of past judgments of Supreme Courts? I will not even discuss that whether JIT formation is an ideal solution or what about its capacity? I will not raise the question if we have all the required agreements for the exchange of information with countries related to this case like UAE, Qatar, SA, Panama, UK or even Switzerland. I will also not debate that if our institutions have certain access to corporate and legal records in these countries under any anti-money laundering international agreement, or how long it will take to compel those who hold such records to share it with Pakistani institutions? I will not go into Hudabiya settlement or any other court records within Pakistan like a much discussed affidavit of Ishaq Dar.

My points are two in this matter for the first, I see this judgement by three judges very SMART (specific, Achievable, measurable, realistic and timely) as the initial question about sources related lease, or purchase of these four properties was very narrow in its scope than current majority orders of the court and to my understanding such look very functional from Sharifs, as they were to prove the legality of sources used to acquire these properties. I am not sure how that is easy for the first family to link their previous resources and assets with the purchase of these properties and what were options used with help of Qatari friends and others. Three majority judges must have view that if they will try to conclude the case, just looking at the end of a “financial roun (financial seepage)” it may not be fruitful to resolve the serious question of corruption (if it happen) So they may have decided like my uncle to dig deep into the canal of Sharif family resources. Which at the start may look useless and time-consuming to petitioners and others, but this can lead to a big hole in the financial bottom. I personally think having such decision three judges lead this matter into a new level and have widened the scope of the Panama Case. They have stretched the scope of the Panama case beyond the four properties in London with other assets held by Sharif family in United Kingdom, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and UAE.

Coming back to my second example, my thinking is that this decision by three honorable judges of Supreme Court basically is an attempt to nip the very knot of the financial trail which once comes into grip gives you an easy way to open the whole bag. I also have a view that financial investment groups of the world must look this case very closely and carefully to find how digging deeper into such financial trails by Pakistani institutions can lead to something which can also open the huge bag of independent investment funds that can be linked somewhere in this case. There is a murmur by some analysts that Panama case was an alarm for Independent Wealth Funds, which in some cases were operated through offshores to save some tax money in past. If one of these safe havens was holding that worth of financial wealth, it must be historical for citizens of nations to know the real numbers of such hidden wealth. Is there any chance that likes Panama papers at global levels this Panama case in Pakistan will lead to new findings into Wealth funds, investments, and their working? I am sure we are going to witness a new beginning beyond Panama case in Pakistan, is there anything coming out in next couple of months, which can widen the scope of this case beyond boundaries of Pakistan.

Article was Written on 25th April 2017.

A freelance writer, business and personal development coach, change and innovation counsellor. In business of training and consultancy at HR HUB.