Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered on Tuesday a judicial investigation into the Panama Papers allegations of the Sharif family’s ownership of offshore companies and assets.
In a rare televised address to the nation, the premier said a judicial commission (JC) headed by a former judge would investigate his family for any wrongdoing.
A massive leak of 11.5 million tax documents of a Panamanian law firm has exposed the secret offshore dealings of world leaders and celebrities.
PM Nawaz's family hit back after Panama Papers leak
Among those named are three of PM Nawaz’s four children with records showing they own real estate in London through offshore companies administered by Mossack Fonseca. None of the businesses mentioned are owned or run by the premier himself.
The PM’s address and the decision to form a JC came after a series of consultative meetings with his family members and party leaders.
The prime minister said he was compelled to respond to the “politically-motivated allegations” against the Sharif family. “I want the nation to decide for itself the reality behind these allegations, which have been levelled for the last 25 years,” he said.
He said the commission would weigh all the allegations and give its verdict after due investigation. He also asked the people levelling allegations against his family to go before the panel and record their statements.
Insiders at the PM House told The Express Tribune the premier held many consultative meetings not only with his party’s senior leaders and legal aides but also with his younger brother Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and his daughter Mariam Nawaz.
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The decision to address the nation and form a JC was unanimously agreed. Both the Sharif brothers believed in replying to the allegations themselves instead of relying on the government or the ruling party.
Earlier in the day, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar was supposed to address a press conference in Islamabad to announce the JC. The presser was cancelled apparently after the PM himself opposed the move, saying it was matter of his children and he would tackle it, the sources said.
The PML-N leadership also discussed the terms of reference (ToRs), scope and names of retired judges to lead the commission with legal aides, including Attorney General of Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf.
The sources believed the JC’s scope would be unlimited and it could be supported by independent investigations by the National Accountability Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency as well as the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which shared the trove of documents. The judicial panel will submit its recommendations to the PM within four to eight weeks.
AGP Ausaf is likely to approach a few retired judges for their consent to head the JC while other members and their facilitating staff will be appointed after consultations with the JC head.
The sources said the PM has also directed his three children – Mariam, Hussain and Hassan who have been named in the leaked documents – to appear before the JC and record their statements.
Reports suggest the PML-N leadership is under immense pressure to clear its name keeping in view the strong reactions of opposition parties, especially the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, after the Panama leaks.
PM Nawaz also mentioned in his speech that “he does not have the time to waste on such baseless allegation”.
Explaining the start of his family business, the premier said his father started working in Lahore 25 years before the creation of Pakistan, and by 1947 his Ittefaq Foundries was a renowned name.
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He added that another industrial plant was established by his family in Dhaka which was lost with the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.
The premier also recalled how Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s nationalisation policy ruined his family.
“On January 2, 1972, Bhutto took over our foundry in Lahore, and hence our assets were lost in mere moments,” he said. “My family was not involved in politics till much later, but even before I got into politics, we were an established industrial family.” The prime minister said his father established another industrial plant in Makkah following the military coup in 1999.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2016.