A Microsoft font is scandalizing Pakistan’s First Family

How Calibri is playing a crucial role in an unfolding political scandal in Pakistan.


July 13, 2017

Calibri is an unassuming little font: it’s soft, warm, subtly rounded — and, as the default typeface of play-it-safe Microsoft Office, it’s the last creation you’d ever expect to draw controversy.

But in recent weeks, the sans-serif has somehow found itself at the center of a massive corruption investigation involving the family of Pakistan’s prime minister.

Okay, let’s back-track a bit here…

Trouble for Pakistan’s PM, Nawaz Sharif, began abrewin’ last year, with the leak of the Panama Papers — a trove of 11.5m financial and legal records of customers using offshore accounts.

Among the papers were a series of documents suggesting Sharif’s children had used shell companies to buy real estate without necessary public disclosure.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court decided to dig deeper — and this week, they released a report. Front and center in the findings: Calibri.

Dayyyum, Calibri! You bad!

As part of the investigation, the documents were sent to a UK-based forensic handwriting lab (sweet job alert), and the researchers found something a bit odd… one of the property deeds in question, dated 2006, was typed using Calibri font.

Just one problem with that: Calibri wasn’t officially released until January 30, 2007 (the debut date of Microsoft Office 2007).

Now, the PM’s family faces charges of perjury, hiding wealth, and forging documents — and the public is calling for Sharif’s resignation.

But wait… there’s a twist!

Calibri was designed by Dutch font master, Lucas de Groot, in 2004 and it was beta tested to a limited number of folks in 2006 — a good while before its public release the following year.

Sharif’s family has adamantly claimed they had beta access. But the Groot-man has said the chances that Sharif’s crew used Calibri prior to 2007 are “extremely unlikely,” as they (presumably) aren’t ardent font nerds.

So, it could be said Calibri is the corruption-fighting hero we need in these dark, dreary times. That doesn’t mean we forgive Microsoft for creating Clippy, though.

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