FeaturedNationalVolume 13 Issue # 17

Media management of Sharif cases

The ruling party has used some media houses to create an impression the prosecution against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his children in an accountability court has collapsed and they will be proved innocent in the end. The same impression was created when the Supreme Court of Pakistan was hearing the cases and it set up a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the assets of the Sharif family, but the final judgment was different from the wishful thinking of the media and the Sharif family.


Against the backdrop the media perception, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has also allegedly tasked some of his close aides to take to the streets after his conviction. There are also reports that the ruling party will attempt to hold rallies in all major cities of the Punjab. It will gather a large number of people and besiege the jail, where Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar would be confined. According to the plan, they will paralyze the state machinery and get them released. Nawaz Sharif has been preparing people for it for some time now. However, there are doubts that the ruling party will be able to bring a large number of people on to the streets. People can vote for the Sharifs but may not agitate for them. The country has seen this when the PML-N government was toppled by former President General (retd) Pervez Musharaf in 1999; the Sharif family was exiled later and Nawaz Sharif attempted to return to Pakistan. The situation will also be different from now because the Punjab police would not be as friendly towards PML-N activists as it is now. It will treat them harshly under the caretaker setup.


The media has been tactfully managed after star witness and Panama case Joint Investigation Team (JIT) head Wajid Zia started recording his statement before the Accountability Court and the Sharif family’s lawyer cross-examined him. Wajid Zia’s testimony was distorted by the media and ministers to create an impression that the Sharif family was not involved in corruption and money laundering. At one point, Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz demanded live coverage of the court proceedings, so that the “whole nation could know about the reality of the cases against them.” It was music to the ears of the family and the media when Wajid Zia admitted that the JIT could not obtain a single document which proved Nawaz Sharif was the owner of Avenfield Flats at any time. It made headlines because it was taken as a clean chit to the Sharif family. However, the major aspect of the cases was ignored deliberately. Nawaz Sharif is facing the cases because he bought offshore properties in the name of his children. His children have admitted the ownership of the assets and now they have to prove that they have them bought legitimately and corruption, tax evasion and money laundering were not involved in it.


The former prime minister had based his narrative on a lie that he had been disqualified for not receiving salary from his son. However, it proved wrong in the court when Wajid Zia provided a document which proved Nawaz Sharif had received his last salary from Capital FZE, a company owned by his son Hussain Nawaz, in August 2013. As per the document, which was a screenshot, Nawaz Sharif and another person had received salaries till August 2013. The document was provided by the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (JAFZA) and prepared under the comprehensive system related to the protection of wages. The letter said Nawaz Sharif was employed with Capital FZE as chairman of its board from August 7, 2006, to April 20, 2014, 11 months after he had become the prime minister of Pakistan. His lawyer objected that the document did not mention the name of any person to substantiate the claim as the salaries were disbursed to the two persons over the counter (OTC) — a system in which salary is paid by hand to the recipient. Under the rules in the UAE, if salary is paid over the counter, only the employee’s code is used instead of the name.


Earlier, Wajid Zia also informed the Accountability Court that trust deeds, submitted by Maryam Nawaz and her brothers Hassan and Hussain in the Avenfield Flats reference, were forged. He submitted that the JIT had sent the trust deeds of the Nielsen and Nescoll offshore companies, provided by Maryam, to a London-based firm, Radley Forensic Document Laboratory, for examination, which said the documents were fake. Earlier, British forensic expert Robert Radley, who testified through video link from London, said the Sharif family had presented a fabricated trust deed of Avenfield properties in the court and the Calibri font could not have been used at the time of the deed as it was not commercially available before January 31, 2007. The forensic expert said he had found some discrepancies in the trust deed. Presenting a fabricated document in the court alone is punishable by seven years in jail. However, the Sharif family and the media created an impression as if he had absolved the Sharif family of all charges. “Thank God, the foreign expert has testified that the Sharif family is innocent. I was expecting him to tell the truth,” Maryam Nawaz told the media after Radley testified.


People have heard lies from the Sharif family since the onset of the Panama Leaks in 2015. One member of the family told a different story to people, parliament and courts. Court proceedings were distorted to create an impression that the Sharif family is innocent. The Panama case was heard by the Supreme Court for 134 days but the Sharif family could not provide the money trail of the assets. Under the accountability law, Nawaz Sharif and his family are guilty and they have to prove their innocence because they have accepted the ownership of the London flats. They failed to prove their innocence in the Supreme Court and the same is the case in the Accountability Court. They had managed the media when the Supreme Court was hearing the cases but the truth prevailed in the end. Their fate will be the same in the Accountability Court despite distorting the facts through the friendly media.