ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday announced forming a high-level judicial commission to investigate the allegations of owning off-shore companies and concealing assets.
“I hereby announce to form a judicial commission which will be led by a former judge of the Supreme Court,” the premier said while addressing the nation on Tuesday evening.
“This commission will weigh the allegations being leveled and will give its verdict after due investigation.”
A massive leak of 11.5 million tax documents on April 3 exposed the secret offshore dealings of world leaders and celebrities, also naming three of the premier’s children for owning London real estate through offshore companies.
The prime minister said he was compelled to respond to the politically-motivated allegations against the Sharif family, making rounds on media.
“I want the nation to decide for themselves the reality behind these allegations which are being leveled for the last 25 years.”
The premier said he would ask those leveling allegations against his family to go before this commission and record their statements.
Regarding business ventures of his sons, the PM said Hassan and Hussain Nawaz were residing in London and Saudi Arabia since 1994 and 2000 respectively.
“Both of my sons have been working under the legal ambit and rules and regulations of the aforementioned countries.”
“Despite facing difficult times and the fall of Ittefaq Foundaries, my family returned every bit of the outstanding dues against the loans acquired, which amount to nearly six billion rupees,” he said.
Our family did not get waived even a rupee of the outstanding dues, the premier added.
Focus on Ittefaq Foundries
Talking about the family business established by his father, Premier Nawaz said, “The Ittefaq Foundries branch established in Dhaka which fell victim to the debacle in 1971,” adding, “On January 2, 1972, the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government took control of its Lahore branch, thus diminishing our assets in an instance.”
The prime minister went on to say, “Our businesses were harmed even during the second tenure of the PPP.”
We even paid off those dues, PM Nawaz said, which we hadn’t owed, and never related to business with politics. “I ask those levelling worn-out and baseless allegations to go before this judicial commission and prove their claims.”
In an official statement on Monday, Sharif family said none of the corporations mentioned in Panama Papers, were owned or run by Nawaz Sharif.
It also highlighted that the corporations owned by Hussain and Hassan Nawaz were legal, saying the leaks had actually alleged no wrongdoing against the family.
Among those named were three of Nawaz’s three children — Maryam, who has been tipped to be his political successor; Hasan and Hussain, with the records showing they owned London real estate through offshore companies administrated by the firm.
An investigation into the documents by more than 100 media groups, described as one of the largest such probes in history, revealed the hidden offshore dealings in the assets of around 140 political figures — including 12 current or former heads of state.
The vast stash of records was obtained from an anonymous source by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and shared with media worldwide by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The documents, from around 214,000 offshore entities, came from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm with offices in more than 35 countries.
PTI questions judicial commission’s authority
Soon after the prime minister announced a judicial commission would probe Panama Papers allegations against the Sharif’s family, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) sprang into action, raising objections and technical questions about the jurisdiction of the proposed commission.
“The prime minister has not made it clear who would appoint the judges: chief justice of Pakistan or the government,” said a PTI statement.
The PTI criticised PM Nawaz, saying he did not talk about a time period the commission would complete its task.
“He did not explain about the powers of the commission and whether, it would be allowed to investigate the assets of the Sharif family within the country and abroad,” the communiqué added.
In his speech, the prime minister did not give a satisfactory answer to the revelations made by consortium of investigative journalists, the statement said.
It added, “Major portion of PM’s speech was based on political stories.”