ISLAMABAD: Like elsewhere in the world, the ‘Panama Papers’ have also whipped up a political storm in Pakistan after it transpired that the ruling Sharif family also allegedly secreted their money off-shore.
A judicial inquiry ordered by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has failed to impress opposition parties which have teamed up to agitate the issue in parliament on Thursday. Leading the chorus, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has called on the prime minister to step down for ‘hiding’ his family wealth abroad.
Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, whose wife also owned an offshore company with big claims on Icelandic banks, resigned on Tuesday, becoming the first casualty of the Panama leaks which have shone a spotlight on the finances of an array of politicians and public figures worldwide.
In Pakistan, fireworks are expected in a session of the National Assembly which convenes on Thursday. Imran Khan, who has decided to end his unannounced boycott of parliament, is expected to lead his party’s onslaught against the government.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who seldom graces the house, is also expected to show up to face the hostile opposition. The ruling party is said to have devised a strategy to take on the opposition in an aggressive manner instead of playing on the back foot.
The PTI submitted an adjournment motion in the National Assembly Secretariat on Wednesday, seeking an exclusive debate on the Panama Papers revelations. “It is an issue of grave national importance affecting the very foundation of our Constitution and democracy,” it states.
The motion states that the leaked information mentioned the names of members of the Sharif family along with other Pakistanis and that the “revelations raise serious legal and ethical issues in Pakistan relating to possible infringement on the Constitution, electoral laws, tax evasion and money laundering”.
The PPP followed suit and submitted an identical motion in the National Assembly Secretariat, inviting the attention of the finance minister towards the Panama leaks.
“Involvement of Pakistanis, especially the family of the serving prime minister, in such activities raises many questions on the legality as well as morality of such actions. These allegations bring disgrace to the country as the prime minister of Pakistan and his family is named along with mafia gangs, terrorists and other wrongdoers,” says the motion.
However, it is Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq’s prerogative to decide the fate of these motions, which also ask him to suspend other business of the house and hold an exclusive debate on the matter.
“According to parliamentary practices, the speaker decides whether or not to allow a debate on an issue,” a senior officer of the National Assembly Secretariat told The Express Tribune.
Responding to a question, he said the speaker might fix a date for discussion over the issue, instead of allowing a debate right away.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2016.
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