The government has done the right thing by making pubic the judgment of arbitration between Broadsheet LLC and the government of Pakistan/National Accountability Bureau (NAB), even though it is a very harsh indictment of the accountability watchdog, and also forming a high-level cabinet committee to probe the matter from beginning to end; including the circumstances that led to the probe, whey it was handled so poorly, and why the taxpayer had to bear such a large an unnecessary burden
. Now everybody must wait for 45 days, when its report is due and then the government is expected to take whatever action the law deems necessary.Yet it’s important for everybody, especially the government, to keep its eye on the ball so to speak and not let this matter descend into another round of political point scoring. So far, regrettably, that is exactly what seems to be happening.
Opposition parties are taking advantage of a flawed approach to an important investigation in the times of previous administrations and holding the present ruling party responsible for them. The government, too, is spinning some of the facts from the arbitration judgment, making them look like something that is not entirely true, to fuel its own anti-opposition narrative of corruption, money laundering, and all that.
Senior ministers at a press conference on Tuesday went on about how the judgment proved that the Sharif family owned illegal assets to the tune of $820 million. They might now find it difficult to explain just why, then, their own lawyer during the appeal argued that even the reduced amount that the court calculated, $100 million, was too high. Still, the fact that the arbitrator concluded that the value of said Sharif family assets was $100 million, former PM Nawaz Sharif must be made to answer for it since no equivalent white money was declared by him or due taxes paid.
This, as adjudicated by the London High Court, was money stolen from Pakistan and laundered by Nawaz Sharif. Therefore this money, along with the $28 million paid to Broadsheet because of it, must be recovered from the former prime minister. What more proof could possibly be needed about the fact that the people of Pakistan paid the commission on properties owned by the Sharif family with ill-gotten money, which has still to be recovered?
No doubt the ministerial-level investigation will get to the bottom of all the facts. But the most important thing that the government must consider, especially from the point of view of the people, is how and when all the stolen money will be repatriated to Pakistan. It’s not just about the $28 million that the government had to pay to Broadsheet because this investigation and everything related to it was so badly botched up, it’s the hundreds of millions, perhaps even billions, of dollars already stolen from the people that this investigation was meant to unearth in the first place. Such issues must be at the heart of the government’s strategy about the way forward. The proof of the pudding ultimately lies in the eating and all the noise that everybody is making right now will mean nothing until the laundered money starts making its way back to the country.