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Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Fate Hangs on ‘Fontgate’

LAHORE, Pakistan — Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is facing increasingly loud calls to resign as an official investigation into allegations of corruption by him and his family continues to unfold.

And now, the fate of the political dominance of the Sharif family may hinge on a Microsoft font: Calibri.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court set up a five-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in April to investigate allegations of financial corruption that surfaced following the release of the infamous Panama Papers.

Image: Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Shari
Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif speaks to media after appearing before an anti-corruption commission in Islamabad on June 15, 2017. Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images

Sharif was not named in the Panama Papers leak, but his three adult children were linked to numerous offshore accounts that also owned luxury apartments in London’s exclusive Mayfair area. In a months long trial, opposition leaders alleged that the money used to buy the real estate was earned through corruption.

The JIT finally presented their scathing 275-page report looking into the allegations to the Supreme Court on July 10. It charged that Sharif, his sons and daughter had engaged in irregular finances, forgery and perjury.

"There exists a significant disparity between the wealth declared by the respondents and the means through which the respondents had generated income from known or declared sources," the report said, according to a partial copy released to reporters.

Related: Panama Papers: Offshore Assets of World Leaders Revealed by Leak

It also recommended to the court the Sharifs be tried for corruption through Pakistan’s anti-graft authority. The Supreme Court will take up the case on Monday.

As parts of the massive report slowly leaked to the press, the stock market tanked by more than 4 percent, the military declared its intention to stand by the country’s courts and Pakistan’s raucous media went into hyperdrive — predicting the end for Sharif, who is serving his third term as prime minister.

The opposition has seized on the allegations with Imran Khan, the cricket-legend-turned- opposition leader calling on Sharif to “immediately step down.” Other mainstream political parties have backed Khan's demands for Sharif's resignation and fresh elections.

Sharif explicitly dismissed the report for the first time on Thursday.

"The JIT report about our family businesses is the sum of hypotheses, accusations and slander," Sharif said in a statement after meeting his cabinet meeting.

Image: Maryam Nawaz
Maryam Nawaz, daughter of the prime minister, arrives to appear before an anti-corruption commission in Islamabad on July 5, 2017. Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images

The extremely detailed report was drafted by five investigators, including representatives from the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) and the Corps of Military Intelligence (MI), with the support of foreign lawyers, forensic experts and international financial authorities.

Pakistan’s rowdy social media was particularly galvanized by the findings against Sharif’s daughter, Maryam, who is reportedly being groomed to take over Pakistan’s largest political party.

In an attempt to establish a complicated money trail to show that she is not real owner of the London real estate, but rather just a “trustee” of the properties, Maryam submitted a document dated 2006. The document was typed in Microsoft’s Calibri font.

The problem is, as the investigators noted in their lengthy report, forensic experts and even the creator of Calibri font say it was not commercially available as part of Microsoft Office until 2007.

The report charged that Maryam submitted “submitted fake/falsified documents to the JIT, which is a criminal offence.”

Thus, the probe has earned the moniker "Fontgate" in the local media.

Sharif served as prime minister twice in the 1990s, but was ousted by a military coup in 1999. That led to a decade of exile until he became the nuclear power's prime minister, again, in 2013.

He will have his fate decided by the Supreme Court on Monday. They could disqualify him as prime minister or order a trial.

In a bid to distance itself from the political fracas, Pakistan's powerful military finally weighed in Sunday with spokesman Major Gen. Asif Ghafoor saying that "there is no conspiracy" against the democratically-elected government and that the Army, which has ruled Pakistan for three decades since independence in 1947, "is not directly involved in the court proceedings."