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A font could decide Pakistan PM's fate

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 15-07-2017 Waseem Abbasi
Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. © AP Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The corruption investigation into Pakistan's prime minister may boil down to a font.

The Microsoft typeface Calibri is now a key piece of evidence in the case against Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after investigators found it was used in documents dated to 2006. The problem? The font wasn't readily available until a year later, the probe found.

The discovery came to light as a Supreme Court-supervised panel examined how Sharif and his family managed to amass such great wealth over the years amid money-laundering charges. 

Documents submitted by Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister’s daughter, to prove her innocence used the Calibri font but were dated to 2006, leading investigators to believe the text was composed more recently and backdated in an attempted cover-up.  

The font revelation generated so much interest that Wikipedia locked its Calibri page until July 18 after scores of users attempted to edit its content. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, more than 150,000 visitors flooded the page, which usually receives 500 visitors per day, according to The Guardian

The company that created the font said it was developed in 2004 but wasn't dispersed to the general public until Jan. 30, 2007, with the launch of Microsoft Vista and Microsoft Office 2007, according to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper. The font’s creator, a Dutch designer named Lucas De Groot, also told Dawn it was "unlikely" Calibri could have been used in any official documents in 2006.

Supporters of Sharif argue the beta version of font became available in 2004 and therefore could have been used in the documents dated to 2006.

“The whole Calibri thing has spawned all kinds of jokes and social media memes, but at the end of the day it's serious business for the government. It points to the possibility that documents presented by Sharif's daughter were forged.” said Michael Kugelman, a South Asia and Pakistan expert at the Woodrow Wilson Center. 

“For a prime minister who has already found himself increasingly vulnerable, this development will undercut his and his family's credibility even more. And when you're under investigation for any sort of wrongdoing, the last thing you can afford is another blow to your credibility,” Kugelman added.

The court-appointed Joint Investigation Team began examining the Pakistan leader and his family in April after the opposition led by former cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan argued Sharif bought London property through ill-gotten money. The properties were first mentioned in the leaked Panama Papers released in April 2016. The documents did not name Sharif but linked his three adult children to offshore companies that owned apartments in London. One British Virgin Islands holding firm listed Maryam as the sole shareholder.

Last November, Maryam tweeted images of a disclosure form claiming she wasn't the real owner of the apartments and she is only a "trustee.” But investigators, in a report submitted to the country's supreme court earlier this week, declared those documents "falsified" because of the Calibri font's use.

Sharif and his family deny any wrongdoing and say the properties were purchased with legal money earned through the family’s expansive business that spans several countries. Sharif's government rejected the report as “trash” and vowed to challenge the findings in the nation's supreme court, which will begin proceedings on the case this week.

Pakistan’s major opposition parties have urged Sharif to resign before the court's decision, but he has rejected the calls.

“Sharif's political fate has grown increasingly perilous. I think the government is genuinely worried that the Supreme Court could disqualify him,” Kugelman said. “Then again, Sharif has proven over his long political career that he's a fighter, and I'm sure that he and his allies will do everything they can to avert his ouster."

In the meantime, #Fontgate, as social media users are calling it, has generated huge interest and memes online. 

“Bill Gates personally thanking Nawaz Sharif for inventing Calibri font,” wrote a twitter user Mahrukh with picture of Microsoft founder with Pakistani Prime Minister.

"Finally Calibri won & 35 years of politics lost. #HistoryCreated" wrote another Twitter user Saad Khan. 

 

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