Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik has accused PML-N President Mian Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, of money laundering of $32 million, and default of Rs 6 billion, and promised to raise the matter in Parliament as well as move a reference to the National Accountability Bureau. He said this at a press conference in Islamabad on Saturday. This evoked a fierce reaction from PML-N spokesman Senator Mushahidullah Khan and Punjab CM’s Adviser Senator Pervez Rashid, who both said that Mr Malik should produce his evidence. The two party spokesmen also assailed Mr Malik’s credibility, and related his accusations to the contempt conviction of Prime Minister Gilani for not writing letter to the Swiss authorities asking them to restart the case against President Zardari over the Swiss accounts. Mr Malik’s accusations do not relate to a recent occurrence, but to the Sharifs’ exile in Saudi Arabia, which began over a decade ago, and which Mr Malik claimed was financed by these accounts. It also shows that, rather than write to the Swiss authorities, as the Supreme Court has asked it to do in the NRO case, the government sleuths have preferred to investigate the Sharifs.

However, the Sharifs and the PML-N must not treat these accusations lightly and should not expect their political charisma to overcome everything. They should be ready to disprove these allegations because if they do not, they could gain currency, and like many rumours, could attain the status of truth by virtue of going unchallenged. Therefore, these accusations must be contradicted vigorously, and Mr Malik must be made to produce whatever proof he has. As Mr Malik said, if this money indeed exists, then it must be the ‘looted money of the poor’. So far, there have been accusations aplenty against the PML-N leadership, but none of the charges have stuck. The Sharif brothers should not think that just because of this, no accusations will ever stick. Though accusing Mr Malik of being a liar might be satisfying, it will not make the charges go away, and it must be remembered that he has been in charge of the government’s investigative machinery for long enough to have dredged up the evidence that would allow him to make the kind of accusations that he is.

Instead of encouraging Mr Malik in this adventure, the government must focus on the matter of the money lying in the Swiss accounts, which will only be brought back if the case is pursued vigorously, beginning with the writing of the letter, not writing which has led to the Prime Minister’s conviction for contempt.