Pakistan’s embattled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today pledged to resign if proved guilty of graft or misappropriation in a high-level probe in the wake of the ‘Panama Paper’ leaks in which three of his children are said to have offshore companies.
“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 Sharif in an address to the nation.
This was his second such speech this month, since three of his four children – two sons and one daughter – were said to have offshore companies as mentioned in a massive leak of 11.5 million tax documents.
The so-called ‘Panama Papers’ made public earlier this month claimed to have exposed the secret offshore dealings of around 140 political figures globally.
His remarks came a day after the Election Commission released the assets statements of Sharif for 2015 showing him as one of the richest politicians in Pakistan with a personal assets of Rs 2 billion, an increase of over a billion in just four years.
The value of the assets owned by Sharif and his spouse comes to around Rs 2 billion an increase of over a billion in just four years. However, he does not own any property abroad.
Sharif’s opponents are using the opportunity to put pressure on the 66-year-old premier to come clean on his family businesses abroad.
He accepted popular demand to set up a probe commission under the leadership of the Chief Justice of Supreme Court and said he will “write a letter to the Chief Justice to set up a commission so that it should investigate the allegations”.
Sharif said he would accept the decision of the probe and added: “I will resign if found guilty.”
He said if he was cleared of the charges then those issuing allegations should seek public apology.
“The commission has not yet been established, but people have already passed judgments,” said the premier.
Earlier in his first address, he had announced to set up a probe under the leadership of a retired judge of the Supreme Court, which was rejected by opposition parties.
Sharif also took a swipe at his opponents like Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf whom he blamed for running a campaign to malign him and harming the development of the country.
“Once again certain elements are attempting to destabilise Pakistan in the wake of Panama Papers,” he said.
Imran had demanded that Sharif step down and the government constitute a Chief Justice-led panel to probe alleged stashing of wealth abroad.
“The commission should also include white-collar-crime experts and an audit firm that follows the trail of money to determine where it leads,” Khan had said.