- Govt to write letter to CJP for investigation into Panama Papers’ revelations after consulting opposition parties
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Thursday that he and his family are clean and ready to face independent accountability in the wake of Panama Papers, as reports from the Prime Minister’s House suggested that the government had seemingly conceded to the opposition parties’ demand for an independent judicial commission headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan to probe the collection of leaked tax documents from a law firm linked to offshore companies in the tax haven of Panama.
“The government in a late night sitting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz decided that it would write a letter to the Chief Justice for the formation of a judicial commission as per the opposition’s demand. However, the government would first contact the opposition leaders for their opinion,” said a source, asking not to be named.
However, a number of opposition party members, when contacted, said they had not yet been contacted by the government to inform them about the commission.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Latif Khosa and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s Naeemul Haq said they were still waiting to hear from the government side.
Earlier, sources in the government had claimed that they were mulling a multi-pronged strategy to build pressure on the opposition parties.
A well-placed cabinet member, who is part of the ongoing consultation process at the Prime Minister’s House, told Pakistan Today that the government had discussed at a meeting held at the PM’s House the possibility of fine-tuning its strategy around the point that most of the sitting and retired judges wanted to stay away from the Panama Leaks investigation.
Asked whether or not the recent action taken by Army Chief General Raheel Sharif had impacted the decision-making at the PM House, the cabinet member acknowledged the heat being felt at the top level. However, he added that the reluctance of the top serving judges to be part of the commission was a source of respite.
“The government, through intermediaries, has received sufficient signals to believe that the judiciary is not interested in taking up the job right now. This reluctance of the top judges is helping the government fine tune its strategy before announcing the commission,” the source said.
The source added that there was confusion whether the government should form a judicial commission or a parliamentary committee.
“We will make sure that our opponents are not left with any opportunity to launch attacks at the prime minister’s family,” the source added.
“If we set up a parliamentary committee, it will give the opposition the opportunity to cry foul as there is a trust deficit when it comes to parliamentary bodies.”
The source added that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wanted a meaningful process to be adopted to allow the people at large to trust the probe into the Panama Papers allegations.
“The premier wants his children to undergo scrutiny so that no one can blame him or his family members whenever the next elections are held,” the source said.
Asked if there was any immediate threat to the prime minister or his family, the source said that was not the case. However, he said, the prime minister was upset on the brazen attacks being made at his family members “without any evidence” by his political opponents.
The source said that the PML-N was also holding meetings to decide the TORs for the commission. He said the TORs would likely include the investigation of all the people whose names have appeared in the Panama Leaks.
“The TORs are being finalized to enable the judicial commission to probe all those 250 people involved in Panama Leaks,” he said and added that the commission may also probe foreign funding of certain political parties and the details of the assets shared with state institutions,” he said.
Those who got their loans written off, or were involved in loan defaults would also be probed, he said.
“The probe will also include Bani Gala’s land transaction through an offshore company and the investment of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital (SKMH)’s funds. Aleem Khan’s offshore accounts will also be investigated by the commission,” he added.
Responding to a question, the source said that the probe will unmask many so-called ‘clean’ politicians who have been making unfounded allegations against the prime minister’s family without any valid and genuine evidence.
Earlier in the day while addressing a special meeting of federal ministers, advisers and personal assistants at Prime Minister’s House, PM Nawaz said: “We have faced such allegations in the past also and no one will be allowed to create hurdles in the way of stability and development of the country.”
Prime Minister Nawaz said the development process launched three years ago to steer the country out of darkness, improve economy, and remove flaws from the system will continue.
“Those who want to hamper development and welfare of people will not succeed in their designs,” he said, adding that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) always prefers values over power and takes decisions on national issues in consultation with other political parties.
The prime minister said political rivals fear that they will be left far behind in the political arena if the government completes its constitutional tenure. He said entire world is convinced of transparency in mega projects in the energy and infrastructure sectors as well as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
“CPEC is a guarantee to the bright future of the country,” Prime Minster Nawaz added.
The cabinet ministers expressed views that certain political elements are trying to create political chaos to divert the government’s attention from the economic agenda. They expressed the resolve that the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz will implement its development agenda at all costs.
Ministers belonging to the allied parties assured the prime minister of support of their respective parties and leadership.
The recent developments follow Panama Papers’ revelations shrouding the prime minister’s family among many other prominent political figures holding off-shore wealth.
Around 220 Pakistanis, including three children of Nawaz Sharif, have been named in the massive leak of documents from a Panama-based law firm.
The prime minister has rejected any allegations of money laundering, claiming his children have legitimate businesses abroad, and has called for the establishment of an inquiry commission.