Pakistan’s prime minister is embroiled in a corruption investigation and his fate — and that of his government — could rest on a humble Microsoft font.
A Supreme Court probe into corruption allegations against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members found “significant disparity” between their declared wealth and known sources of income.
But it is documents allegedly from 2006 submitted to the probe by Sharif’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, which have become the center of a growing scandal.
Why? Because the documents — which were allegedly forged to hide her ownership of overseas properties — were in Calibri font, which wasn’t publicly available until 2007.
Calibri became the default font on Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook and WordPad in 2007. However as the Microsoft website points out, if you were a font fanatic, the earliest version of Calibri was able to be downloaded as far back as 2005 and you potentially could’ve even gotten access to it in 2004.
— Safi Ullah (@safigraphy) July 11, 2017
One of the country’s leading English newspapers Dawn spoke with the designer credited with creating the font, Lucas de Groot, who expressed his own doubt about the likelihood that Nawaz had found an early version of the font.
“As far as I know, the first public beta versions of Calibri were published in 2006,” he said via a statement to the paper.
“We do not know the exact date for this public release date (but) it is (still) extremely unlikely that somebody would copy fonts from a beta environment to use in official documents.”
Typography expert Thomas Phinney, who has testified in a number of cases relating to forged documents, also told the BBC that it was “highly unlikely” that the font was downloaded by ordinary computer users.
The untimely use of the Microsoft font has become a major point of intrigue in Pakistan. The term #Fontgate has been trending on social media in the country while Wikipedia had so many attempts to edit the Calibri page that it was put on lockdown.
Wikipedia entry on 'Calibri' was edited at least 8 times from Pakistan today pic.twitter.com/6ALvyFGZuD
— omar r quraishi (@omar_quraishi) July 11, 2017
The prime minister’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, is widely seen as her father’s political successor. However, if she’s found to have forged documents to conceal her family’s assets it could dampen her leadership ambitions.
Pakistan’s prime minister has been under pressure since documents leaked in 2016 from a Panama-based law firm which disclosed that his family had offshore accounts.
Three of Sharif’s four children — Maryam and his sons Hasan and Hussein — were implicated in the widely covered Panama Papers.
At the heart of the case is the legitimacy of the funds used by the Sharif family to purchase several high-end London properties via offshore companies.
Pakistani opposition parties have urged the country’s prime minister to step down over the scandal. But Sharif’s ruling PML-N party insists the wealth was acquired legally, through family businesses in Pakistan and the Persian Gulf.
Investigators in the probe suggested on Monday that courts pursue action based on a 1999 accountability law intended to help eliminate corruption.
The final decision in the ongoing investigation rests with the country’s Supreme Court, which will take up the case next week.