Who Are The Pakistanis The Panama Papers Leak Allegedly Exposed? Politicians Aren't The Only Ones
A gargantuan collection of 11.5 million files leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca's database has seemingly implicated hundreds of thousands of people from around the world in tax evasion and money laundering. As facts continue to trickle out of the Panama Papers, over 200 Pakistanis have been exposed. Seeing as only a small portion of the documents have been published, you should consider this only the beginning for Pakistan, as well as for the rest of the globe.
Thus far, the records have been most calamitous for world leaders and politicians, such as Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, who resigned after his offshore financial activity was condemned by the public. Only time will tell whether the repercussions are as harsh for Pakistan's own Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif. Several members of the leader's family were implicated in questionable dealings, but the list included individuals from a wide array of backgrounds.
According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Sharif's children — Maryam, Hasan, and Hussain — each allegedly own shell companies established with the help of Mossack Fonseca. According to the documents, the trio has profited off of a network of sugar mills, paper mills, and steel plants that have reportedly garnered suspiciously large sums of money.
Although funneling transactions through these companies can be done legally, they are oftentimes used to evade taxes and stash funds abroad.
Sharif has served as prime minister of Pakistan on and off since 1990, and is no stranger to such accusations, although he's not directly listed by the Papers. In 2000, three of his children were detained when authorities suspected them of money laundering. ICIJ reported that they were exiled to Saudi Arabia, but acquitted of the charges.
Though the involvement of the prime minister's family has gained the most attention, they are among hundreds of other names from Pakistan in the Papers. In fact, the Saifullahs of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa own the most offshore businesses. With 34 businesses in the British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, and Singapore, this family outsources more assets than the children of the ruling regime.
The Saifullahs, like many other wealthy families in the country, are politicians. Salim Saifullah is a senator, as well as Chairman of Pakistan's Senate Foreign Relations, Kashmir Affairs, and the Gilgit Baltistan Committee. Anwar, his brother, is a member of the Pakistan Muslim League and served in an array of Sharif's cabinets.
Though Pakistan has witnessed a strong correlation between political involvement and wealth, the Daily Pakistan published a list of media owners, businessmen, and judges who were also implicated by the Papers. Unfortunately, the involvement of such finances leaves ample room for corruption to infiltrate all levels of Pakistan's state operations. According to Transparency International's 2015 Corruptions Perception Index, the country ranked number 117 of 168 nations, with number 168 being perceived as the most corrupt. The institution also defined its budget openness as "minimal."
Now that possible sources of that corruption have been identified and broadcast on a worldwide scale, Pakistan's people might have a chance at pressuring their government and its affiliates to become more transparent.