ISLAMABAD - As the Pakistan People’s Party turned its guns towards Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, former interior minister Rehman Malik has finally admitted the offshore company referred in the Panama leaks was jointly owned by him and Benazir Bhutto.
A day earlier, Rehman Malik had claimed he or Benazir Bhutto were not even named in the Panama leaks but after carefully going through the details, he acknowledged he co-owned the Petrofine FZC with Benazir Bhutto.
The secret files reveal shady dealings by the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as well as relatives of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Former premier Benazir Bhutto, Javed Pasha (a friend of Asif Ali Zardari), Senator Rehman Malik and the family of Senator Osman Saifullah are also named.
Zain Sukhera, co-accused with the son of former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in the Haj (pilgrimage) scandal, was also on the list.
Alongside them were businessmen Sadruddin Hashwani and real estate tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain’s son Ahmad Ali Riaz. Textile moguls from the Abdullah family of Sapphire Textiles as well as Gul Mohammed Tabba of Lucky Textiles and Shahid Nazir of Masood Textiles are also involved.
Key figures in the judiciary also come up, including Justice Farrukh Irfan, a serving judge in the Lahore High Court. Retired judge Malik Qayyum also appears in the papers. In total more than 200 Pakistanis are named in the documents. Most conspicuous names include current and former politicians.
Four companies were reportedly owned by family members of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The late Benazir Bhutto, accused of the oil-for-food bribery scandal has been confirmed as one of the three shareholders in Petroline International Inc – alleged partner of the Petrofine FZC.
Relatives of Sharif were connected to at least 8 companies which were used to buy 6 properties in London in 2007-8. Three of these companies took out a £ 7 million loan with Deutsche Bank (Suisse) SA to buy 4 properties.
The team behind the Panama Papers leak continues to pore over the data, which included a huge amount of information. To process it will likely to take months and involve the combined efforts of journalists around the world.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, first released the details to the media but published the disclaimer: “There are legitimate uses for offshore companies, foundations and trusts. We do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Power Players interactive application have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.”
Rehman Malik told The Nation from the United Kingdom that having an offshore company was not illegal. “As I have already said they are talking of a company dissolved in 2005. I had shares in that company and it was shut down after suffering losses,” he added.
The PPP leader said the company was opened during the exile period of Benazir Bhutto as “we wanted to continue our lives. We did nothing wrong.”
“I said we were not named in the Panama papers because I knew we ran a legal business and in fact suffered losses instead of making profit,” he contended.
Malik blamed Indian Express for replicating a ‘fake story’ that was published in 2007 by The Guardian. He said Petroline was never involved in any wrongdoings and neither had it paid commission to anybody in the Sadam Hussain regime.
The former interior minister was surprisingly not defended by his party who preferred to attack the government seeking resignation of Prime Minister Sharif.
A statement released by PPP spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar only defended late Benazir Bhutto.
“Rehman Malik can defend himself. He is alive and active,” said a senior PPP leader when asked why the party was mum on Malik.
Former PM Raja Pervez Ashraf asked Nawaz Sharif to immediately resign. Other PPP leader issued identical statements.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 06-Apr-2016 here.