Pakistan's embattled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has admitted before the Supreme Court, hearing a money laundering case against him, that he had obtained a permit to work in a company in the UAE while rejecting the allegation that he had concealed his employment. In a written reply submitted in the apex court on Saturday through his counsels -- Khawaja Haris, Amjad Pervaiz and Saad Hashmi -- Sharif said his employment with the Capital FZE and obtaining of work permit for it had been mentioned in his nomination papers submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) during the 2013 general election.
A Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted by the apex court to probe the offshore business dealings of the Sharif family in 1990s in its report said that the prime minister was the chairman of Capital FZE and he had also obtained a work permit from the UAE government for the purpose.
The prime minister s lawyers had initially denied that Sharif was the chairman of any offshore company.
In his fresh reply, Sharif told the Supreme Court that his son, Hassan Nawaz, was the "owner, director & secretary and the authorised signatory of the Capital FZE".
"Nawaz Sharif is not a shareholder, or director or secretary of Capital FZE," according to the reply.
The premier was only a "ceremonial office holder" in 2007 when he was in exile and had nothing to do with the running of the company or supervising its affairs, it said.
"The Iqama (work permit) and the prime minister’s employment with the Capital FZE is reflected in the copies of his passport annexed with the nomination forms submitted to the ECP before 2013 election. Being no separate column in the nomination forms for any such information to be provided by the candidate contesting the election Nawaz Sharif's passport copies were annexed," the reply said.
A six-member JIT was set up in May by the apex court with the mandate to probe the Sharif family for allegedly failing to provide the trail of money used to buy properties in London in 1990s.
The JIT has recommended that the report's Volume-X should be treated as confidential as it contains the details of correspondence with other countries.
So far Sharif has refused to quit, calling the investigators' report a compilation of "allegations and assumptions".
The denial comes ahead of the Supreme court hearing into the case, which begins tomorrow.
The JIT in its damning report submitted to the Supreme Court on July 10 recommended that a corruption case be filed against Sharif and his sons - Hassan and Hussain - and his daughter Maryam for evading tax.
The high-profile graft case is about alleged money laundering by Sharif in 1990s when he twice served as the Prime Minister to purchase assets in London. The assets surfaced when Panama papers last year showed that they were managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif's children.
Sharif, 67 has rubbished the report as a "bundle of baseless allegations", and said that an "unjustified campaign" was launched against his government soon after he won in 2013.
"The people of Pakistan have elected me and only they can remove me from this post," he said this week.
The apex court is likely to announce its verdict in the sensitive Panama Papers case against Sharif in the coming week. Sharif and his cabinet members have been alleging for weeks that conspiracies are being hatched to oust Nawaz Sharif. They openly blamed the military establishment and judiciary behind the plot for Sharif's ouster.
Pak Army has 'no direct involvement' in probe
The Pakistan Army said on Sunday that it had no role in the investigation of Nawaz Sharif's family assets, asserting that it was "focused only" on safeguarding the country's security.
Pakistan Army's spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor told reporters that the joint investigation team was formed by the Supreme Court, "which did its job honestly. Its report will be examined by the court. Army has no role in the process."
Asked about the Sharif government's allegations that the Panama Papers scandal and the subsequent probe into the prime minister's family wealth was a "conspiracy" against the civilian dispensation, the spokesman said that the Army was "only focused on the security of the country."
"There is no direct army involvement in the JIT," he asserted, adding that the "Pakistan Army will continue playing its role for the security of Pakistan with other institutions," according to a report in Dawn newspaper. "Political talk is in the political domain."
The Pakistani military has always played a crucial role in the country's politics. It has ruled Pakistan for more than 33 years of the country's 70-year history.
Reports of disagreement between the civilian and the military leaderships this time dates back to October 6, when the Dawn in a front-page report claimed that civilian authorities have warned the Inter-Service Intelligence spy agency to act against militants or face international isolation.
The rift was a grim reminder of 1999, when then Army chief Pervez Musharraf had ousted the government of Sharif.
Sharif is the only Pakistani politician who has the distinction of being the prime minister of the coup-prone country for a record three times.
He served as prime minister from 1990 to 1993 and from 1997 to 1999. Both of Sharif's first two stints ended in the third year of his tenure.
(With PTI inputs)