Image: Quartz

Can a basic Microsoft font cripple a ruling government? Well. It might be hard to believe but seems like in 2017, it is possible.

In a surprising turn of events, a corruption probe into Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that began last year has spilled some dangerous beans for the political atmosphere of the country. When Panama Papers were leaked in 2016, known as ‘the largest document leak in history’, Mr Nawaz’s children were caught in the corruption scandal.

The papers had linked PM Nawaz’s children, Maryam, Hussain and Hassan, of having offshore companies. Money from which was used to purchase their flats in London. In an attempt to defend herself, Maryam tweeted photos in November last year of a ‘genuine’ document, she didn’t know would become the crucial turning point of the corruption probe that was launched in April. A six-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was set up.

To identify whether the documents submitted by Maryam were authentic, Robert Radley was hired to the dirty job. A forensic handwriting and document examination expert, Radley analyzed the Nescoll/Nielson Declaration document, which according to Maryam proves that she is the trusty of the company and not the owner as the Panama Papers state. The document is signed and dated February 2, 2006.

But Radley found a detail relating to the document that is almost impossible to forgo. In his report he said, “I have identified the type font used to produce both certified Declarations as ‘Calibri’. However, Calibri was not commercially available before 31st January 2007 and as such, neither of the originals of the certified Declarations is correctly dated and have to have been created at some later point in time.”

In simpler words: Document submitted by Maryam dates back to 2006, while the font used in it, the basic Microsoft font Calibri, was only commercially available in 2007. And as an issue isn’t big enough unless it’s on the micro-blogging site Twitter, the revelation soon gave way to #Fontgate. And leading its way to crashing the Wikepedia page on Calibri.

According to a report published the Guardian on an average day the page receives a total of 500 visits but after the damning revelation, during July 11 and 12, the views rose up to a surprising 150,000. Pakistan’s premier English daily, Dawn reports that many anonymous users in the country rushed to the page to make edits and changed the said release date of Calibri from 2007 to 2004.

The #Fontgate saga got out of hands so much so that Wikipedia itself had to hold on the rights to edit its page. Owing to ‘persistent disruptive editing’, it has since then changed the status of the particular page to ‘semi-protected’.

In the report submitted by the JIT, it has declared the Trust Declaration documents ‘fake and fabricated documents’. The documents has tainted the political career of Maryam even before it began as she is regarded as PM Nawaz’s political heir.

The political dynasty of Nawaz Sharif has since then come into much scrutiny. The Calibri font saga was just the beginning of the long haul of proving corruption charges against the Sharif family. Since then the PM and his family numbers have had a number of hearings in the Supreme Court of Pakistan to decide the faith of their leadership.

The final verdict after the submission of the Volume X of the JIT report has been reserved by the Supreme Court. Within a week, the decision shall be announced. From a basic Microsoft font to an overthrow of a political dynasty, the politics in Pakistan, will, perhaps, see a new revival.

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