Pakistan’s prime minister appeared on Thursday before a Supreme Court-appointed team investigating allegations against his family’s offshore companies and money laundering.
Security was tight ahead of Nawaz Sharif’s appearance before the panel at the Judicial Academy in Islamabad. The Pakistani leader, who says he never misused his authority to enrich himself, has been under pressure to resign since reports based on documents leaked from a Panama-based law firm indicated his sons owned offshore companies.
The panel is comprised of senior investigators and representatives from the country’s two powerful spy agencies — the Inter-Services-Intelligence and Military Intelligence.
Pakistani TV footage showed Sharif waving to dozens of his supporters who had gathered near the Judicial Academy complex of buildings. Sharif, accompanied by daughter Maryam Nawaz, one of his sons and his younger brother, seemed relaxed as he stepped out of his car heading into the academy.
Abid Sher Ali, a senior member from Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N ruling party told reporters that the prime minister shunned all protocol for the appearance because he firmly believes in the rule of law and that “nobody is above the law.”
Sharif’s two sons have already testified before the same panel, denying allegations against their family’s financial affairs. Sharif’s family and his party have alleged that some of the panel members were biased, accusing them of pressuring witnesses to testify against Sharif.
The panel denied the allegation, countering with accusations that some Sharif party officials were threatening the panel and that some government officials were refusing to cooperate.
Sharif’s spokesman Musadik Malik told the Pakistani DUNYA news channel that Sharif had refrained from taking up his constitutional immunity to avoid appearing before the panel “because his hands are clean.”
Sharif’s daughter Maryam Sharif shared a photo on social media of her and her father, smiling before the panel appearance.
Thursday’s developments came nearly two months after the Supreme Court, after hearing petitions for months against the prime minister and his family, ruled there was not enough evidence to remove Sharif from office but ordered a further investigation into the allegations.
Sharif has faces corruption allegation since 2013, when he came to power after winning parliamentary elections. His political opponents want the prime minister to resign over tax evasion and concealing foreign investment.
Sharif’s family has acknowledged owning offshore businesses, but says it was done with legal money.
Though the content of Sharif’s testimony Thursday was not immediately known, he was expected to be asked to explain how his family bought costly apartments in London. The prime minister has insisted his father built up the family business before he entered politics in the 1980s.