Nawaz Sharif alleges 'slandering of family' after appearing before probe panel
The JIT summoned Nawaz Sharif last week to "appear and associate with the JIT and also bring all relevant record". Photograph: (Reuters)
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who on Thursday appeared before a probe panel investigating his wealth, alleged slandering of his family and said "some unseen elements" were hatching conspiracies against his democratically-elected government.
The Pakistan PM, the first sitting prime minister to record a statement before a joint investigation team (JIT), claimed his family was "subjected to accountability during previous regimes".
"What is happening here is not about corruption allegations against me, it is about slandering the businesses and accounts of my family," a defiant Sharif said as he read from a statement after appearing before the JIT.
"Today, I have just presented my stance before the Joint Investigation Team," Nawaz Sharif said.
"It should be noted that these allegations have nothing to do with my tenure as the prime minister and are not charges of corruption. They are charges against me and my family on a personal level about the family business," Sharif said after nearly three hours of questioning by the six-member team.
Panama leaks suggest that three of PM Sharif's four children -- his daughter Maryam, and his sons Hasan and Hussein -- own offshore companies and assets not shown on official records.
The JIT was constituted by Pakistan's top court to probe allegations against him following the 2016 Panama Papers leak.
The JIT comprises anti-corruption officials, along with members of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and Military Intelligence.
The JIT summoned Nawaz Sharif last week to "appear and associate with the JIT and also bring all relevant record".
The Panama Papers are 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca that document the offshore dealings of many of the world's rich and powerful.
The leaked documents illustrate how wealthy individuals and public officials keep their finances hidden.
Panama Papers appeared to show that Sharif's daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and used them to buy flats in London.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan has alleged that the money and the flats held by the companies were gained by corrupt means.
The Supreme Court agreed last year to investigate the Sharif family's offshore wealth after the opposition threatened protests after the leaking of the Panama Papers.
In April, the top court ruled there was insufficient evidence to remove Sharif from office over corruption allegations levelled by the opposition, but it ordered further investigations.
Sharif, whose father was a prominent industrialist, has said his family wealth was acquired legally.
A three-time prime minister, Sharif was ousted twice in the 1990s, including in a 1999 military coup.
He swept back to power in an election in 2013 but rumours of tension between his government and Pakistan's powerful military occasionally circulate.
The Supreme Court has given the panel two months to investigate the family and then deliver its findings.
Opinion polls suggest Sharif's party is likely to win the next election, due next year, Reuters reports.