Qatar Sheikh end Pakistan PM Sharif’s Political Career?

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Qatar Sheikh end Pakistan PM Sharif’s political career?
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (L) meets with visiting Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad ibn Khalifa Al-Thani in the Prime Minister house, in Islamabad 06 April 1999. Sheikh Hamad, who arrived here 05 April, is on a two day official visit, part of a seven-nation Asian tour aimed at increasing economic and commercial relations, discussed bilateral and international issues with Pakistani officials and his country signed agreements of mutual interest. AFP PHOTO/Aamir QURESHI / AFP PHOTO / SAEED KHAN
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Qatar Sheikh end Pakistan PM Sharif’s political career?

Decades-old business ties with Qatar have returned to haunt Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the middle of a court battle he is facing to save his political career. Observers believe that the absence of Qatari former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim bin Jaber al-Thani from the testimony box, that was crucial to the investigation, may even end Sharif’s political career.

Sharif’s family is facing investigations in Pakistan over disparities in its overseas financial dealings. Sharifs have been business and friends with Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim bin Jaber al Thani’s family for at least two generations. However, it seems, when the Sharif family needed him the most, the Qatari prince was not there for his friend.

Speaking to Al Arabiya, Fawad Hussain Chaudhary, an eminent lawyer and spokesperson of opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) said that Jasim’s failure to testify in the highest court of Pakistan means the court may declare Sharif dishonest as per Article 62 and 63, which could mean his disqualification from office.

Qatar Sheikh end Pakistan PM Sharif’s political career?
Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabbor Al Thani (L) meets Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf at army house Rawlpindi on 27 December 2002. (AFP)

Links to Pakistan

Notwithstanding his decision not to testify, Chaudhary says that the Jasim family’s connections with Pakistani politics are not a new phenomenon. According to him, several such cases have surfaced in the past.

“RedCo group is one of its examples. Even in earlier reference against PM Sharif where he was accused of using the helicopter for the election campaign, it was Jasim al-Thani who had given him a favor by providing an affidavit that he paid rent for the helicopter,” said Chaudhary.

Raza Rumi, Editor of Pakistan’s Daily Times says that Jasim al-Thani’s involvement in Sharif scandal has nothing to do with the Qatari government and is entirely one individual’s business deals across the borders.

“Though both Qatar and Pakistan have maintained friendly relations, and both sides have refrained from meddling in each other’s domestic politics, Jasim al-Thani is involved in this transaction in his personal capacity,” he said.

According to him, it appeared that Jasim al-Thani wanted to cooperate with the investigation only on his own terms. “He had asked for the presence of his aides during his meeting with the investigation team from Pakistan,” Rumi said.

Qatar Sheikh end Pakistan PM Sharif’s political career?
Qatar’s then Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani (R) with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri prior to a meeting in Islamabad, 30 June 2006. (AFP)

Beginning of the crisis

The story goes back to April 2016, when the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published a report, which alleged that Nawaz Sharif’s family owns four high profile apartments in London purchased through two off-shore companies. These properties were not declared to the Election Commission of Pakistan before he contested for the highest executive position in the country in 2013 elections.

To make matters worse, Sharif and his family gave conflicting versions to the media, on the resources that were utilized for buying the property. When the matter went to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Hussain Nawaz, the prime minister’s son and a London-based businessman, came up with a new plea that his grandfather Mian Sharif invested money with Qatar’s Jasim family. In 2006, when Jasim family settled the investment, Hussain became the owner of London properties.

Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim bin Jaber al-Thani – who was prime minister of Qatar from 2007-2013 – initially confirmed the claim through two different written correspondences to the court. He confirmed that Prime Minister Nawaz’s father, Mian Muhammad Sharif, made an investment of approximately 12 million Qatari dirhams in the al-Thani family’s real estate business.

Qatar Sheikh end Pakistan PM Sharif’s political career?
Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jasim (C) listens to his aides before a meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, January 13, 2005. REUTERS/Aladin Abdel Naby AN/DL – RTRKEGS

Cash transaction

“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 said.

According to reports carried out by the Pakistani media, 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 approximately $8,000,000 was due to Mr Sharif.

“The amount due to him was settled in 2006, 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,” a Dawn report said.

The Supreme Court rejected the letters and asked Jasim to appear in person and validate his claims by providing related bank documents. The prince, however, refused to present himself in a court in Pakistan or even in the Pakistan embassy in Doha.

 

Qatar Sheikh end Pakistan PM Sharif’s political career?
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani with the then Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, in Tehran, on March 11, 2009. (AP)

Testimony at his palace

The investigation team insisted that he should record the statement within the territorial jurisdiction of Pakistan, while Sheikh Hamad said he is not subject to the jurisdiction and has offered the JIT members to record his statement at his palace.

Eventually, on Monday July 10, the JIT submitted its investigation report to the court without Jasim’s testimony. The report, which was made public, mentioned glaring disparities in the Sharif family’s known sources of income and their actual wealth.

“Significant gap/disparity amongst the known and declared sources of income and the wealth accumulated by the Respondents….have been observed,” the JIT observed in its concluding remarks in the report.

Sharif’s political party, Pakistan’s Muslim League, has rejected the JIT report without Jasim’s testimony. The court has been adjourned till Monday (July 17) to decide Sharif’s fate.

While political observers believe this could be the beginning of the end of Nawaz Sharif’s career, they also maintain that a more firm testimony from a tried and trusted friend from Qatar could have saved the day for Pakistan’s three-time prime minister.

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