This too shall pass


    Or won’t it?

    Termed by American dissident, Edward Snowden as ‘one of the biggest leaks in the history of journalism’, confidential data of a Panamanian firm – which specializes in offshore tax havens – hit media across the world.

    100 media organizations globally, with the help of 300 journalists went through 2.6 TB of Mossack Fonseca’s data to compile the report. Around 11 million files took almost a year for the journalists to go through manually.

    The data revealed some of the world’s biggest and most powerful leaders had used the services of Mossack Fonseca to start offshore companies to avoid giving tax in their own countries. Known as ‘tax havens’, these far-off places are located mostly in underdeveloped countries where their governments have announced zero taxation for foreign investors.

    The leaked papers revealed the names of Russian President, Vladimir Putin, Saudi Arabian King, Prime Minister of Iceland and family our own PM, Nawaz Sharif to have acquired their services – to name the few.

    The papers showed daughter of PM Nawaz Sharif and expected heir to his legacy, Maryam Nawaz owned two companies in British Virgin Islands, among other properties. The address registered for one of the companies is Sharif family’s Saroor Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

    PM Sharif is not the only Pakistani to have been involved in the tax evasion. Former slain Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, PPP stalwart Rehman Malik and former President Asif Ali Zardari’s close friend, Javed Pasha also have shares in the offshore companies.

    Iceland’s Prime Minister had to resign from his post after the massive protests against him. However, according to English newspaper, The Guardian, opening an offshore company is not illegal. “There are many legitimate reasons for doing so. Business people in countries such as Russia and Ukraine typically put their assets offshore to defend them from `raids’ by criminals, and to get around hard currency restrictions,” their statement read.

    The question, as many say, is more moral than legal. How can a national leader, who is also country’s Prime Minister evade tax while asking the public to pay theirs’ regularly?

    Imran Khan jumped in the bandwagon of questions right away by demanding NAB to probe into the issue. “Probes have already been initiated in several countries like Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and France after their leaders and office bearers were implicated in the leaks,” he added.

    “How can money launderers ask others to invest in Pakistan?” he asked.

    Responding to criticism, PM Nawaz Sharif spoke to the nation – 2nd time in the last 3 weeks. He announced a Judicial Commission to probe into the ‘allegations’. “I have decided to set up a high level judicial commission headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court. This commission will decide after its investigation that what is reality and how much weight these allegations should be given,” he said.

    Rejecting the announcement, Imran Khan demanded an ‘empowered commission’, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan. “If our demand of an empowered commission is not met, then we will have no other option but to come out on the streets,” he added.

    He further announced marching on Raiwand, the hometown of Sharif family – instead of D-Chowk.

    Opposition leader, Khursheed Shah demanded an audit by a foreign firm to investigate into the matter.

    The current situation of PMLN government recalls the dharna days, when civilian government was jolted.

    PM Nawaz Sharif went to UK a couple of days ago, citing ‘medical treatment’ to be the reason. CM Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, Interior Minister, Ch. Nisar Ali Khan are also out of the country. Rumors are rife that PM Sharif is going to meet PPPP Co-Chairman, Asif Ali Zardari to seek his support amid the mounting pressure.

    Commenting on the current situation, journalist and political analyst, Wajahat Masood says, “It has become a norm for civilian governments to find themselves in a turmoil.”

    “This too shall pass,” he added.

    Masood criticizes the calls for selective transparency, saying why no one is asking the reason behind Sharifs going out of the country, along with the money. “Democracy was derailed and the dictator Musharraf, very proudly, announced he would not allow Sharif brothers to return. Before coming to the money laundering question, someone needs to address the reason for their exile first,” he added.

    With our whole system being corrupt to the core, Masood thinks it’s unfair to expect an Icelandic type of justice. “We are expecting PM Sharif to resign like Iceland’s PM did. If we really are up to follow their example, they don’t have an organized army as well. Why don’t we follow suit?

    Masood believes these forces are gathering against the democratically elected government; to weaken the already trembling democracy. “However, I don’t this will damage the government,” he adds.

    Political Commentator, Ayaz Amir believes if PM Sharif really is innocent and there are no illegalities involved, he must go ahead with opposition’s demands. “I don’t think PPP will play the real opposition here to pressurize PMLN government,” he further adds.