Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday likened Pakistani money laundering suspects to the Sicilian Mafia, saying they, like their Italian counterparts, use bribes, threats and blackmail to pressurise state institutions and the judiciary to protect their billions illegally stashed abroad.
The premier’s remark came in a tweet accompanied by a four-year-old news article about a testimony given by former Italian president Giorgio Napolitano during a trial regarding bombings carried out by mobsters in the 1990s.
Napolitano was reported to have told prosecutors that the attacks were a form of “extortion or outright pressure aimed at destabilising the entire system”. The bombings had allegedly led to high-ranking Italian ministers negotiating with the Sicilian Mafia to end the violence in exchange for softer jail sentences and better conditions in prison for convicted mobsters, according to The Local‘s report.
“In a similar vein to the ‘Sicilian mafia’, the Pakistani mafia uses tactics of bribe, threat, blackmail and begging to pressurise state institutions and judiciary in order to protect their billions of money laundering stashed abroad,” Prime Minister Imran wrote on Twitter today.
Although the premier did not name any individual or political party, his observation comes a day after accountability judge Arshad Malik claimed in an affidavit that he was offered a Rs500 million cash bribe by the son of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Hussain Nawaz, who demanded that the judge resign on the grounds that he “could no longer deal with the guilt of having convicted” Nawaz under duress in the Al-Azizia/Hill Metal Establishment reference in December 2018.
On July 6, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz had opened a Pandora’s box with a startling claim that judge Malik had “confessed” that he had been “pressurised and blackmailed” to convict her father in the Al-Azizia reference. A video containing the judge’s alleged confession during his conversation with a ‘sympathiser’ of the PML-N, Nasir Butt, was screened at a presser. The next day, the judge had denied the allegation and being under any pressure, but admitted that Butt was an acquaintance.
On Saturday, Maryam was quick to hit back at the prime minister’s insinuation that members of the country’s opposition acted as a “mafia”.
“You’re a part of the mafia that pressurises judges into targeting & punishing your political opponents. It is you who used the institutions to settle scores with your opponents & defaced & maligned them in the process. Shame on you,” she wrote, addressing Imran.
In a second tweet in Urdu, she alleged that the prime minister was “part of the heinous conspiracy that was staged to punish Nawaz Sharif and keep him out of the field”.
She further alleged that judge Malik had exposed the premier through his alleged confession.
“Don’t hide behind your elders now,” the PML-N leader told the prime minister.