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Pakistani bishops denounce 'chaos' following protests

Pakistanis are angry at their prime minister for keeping money in offshore investments

Pakistani bishops denounce 'chaos' following protests

Activists from an opposition party in Pakistan take part in a rally in Islamabad on Nov. 2, protesting corruption against the prime minister's family. (Photo by AFP)

Kamran Chaudhry, Lahore
Pakistan

December 1, 2016

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Catholic bishops in Pakistan are dismayed by a situation that has lead the Supreme Court to hear petitions seeking to oust Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for having dodgy offshore cash stashes.

The Panama Papers leak put a spotlight on the offshore wealth of the ruling family. This prompted Pakistan's major opposition Justice Party to hit the streets and demand Sharif resign. They threatened to shut down the capital city of Islamabad if he refused. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear petitions seeking a corruption inquiry against the ruling Sharif family.

The Pakistani Catholic bishops' conference said in press release that they wanted the government to "take strong action and get rid of the existing chaos in society and daringly wipe out every tint of corruption from the sacred face of our beloved motherland."

"Corruption and poverty" were among several issues addressed in their Second Plenary Annual Meeting in Lahore in late November.

"Corruption and poverty go hand-in-hand," the statement said. "When the malpractices of corruption rise, the economies of countries fall. The corrupt go on conning the fiscal resources of the country by fair and foul guiles hurling the greater segment of society into a bottomless abyss of poverty."

In their Sunday homilies, Catholic priests have been alluding to the corruption charges against Sharif ever since the Panama Papers revealed in April that his three children were among hundreds of powerful people who had allegedly sequestered money in offshore investments.

Hundreds of political workers were arrested last month when cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan threatened to shut down the federal capital to put pressure on the government to hold the premier accountable. 

Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad said "justice should prevail if the prime minsiter has really used the money of the poor for business abroad."

Retired Justice Nasira Javed Iqbal, now a human rights activist, expressed her shock. "Unlike developed countries, people here do not have consciences. We have become a spectacle," she said.

"The hidden companies may not have breached the law but there is a moral obligation on heads of state. Using loopholes in laws can justify the deeds in this world but everyone is answerable to Allah."
 
In the last week of the church’s liturgical year, Pope Francis warned that corruption is a form of blasphemy which leads to the worship of money.

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