As calls for an independent inquiry into the revelations in the ‘Panama Papers’ rose to a crescendo, the government offered on Saturday a probe by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) into the offshore investments of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family.
The offer by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar came a day after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan threatened his party would stage a sit-in outside the Sharif family residence in Raiwind, if the charges were not investigated independently.
The explosive revelations, resulting from what the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca blamed on a computer hack launched from abroad, revealed how the world’s wealthy stashed assets in offshore companies to evade taxes. Three scions of the Sharif family are also named in the documents, though they denied any wrongdoing.
Two days after the Panama leaks stirred up a worldwide political storm, Premier Nawaz announced a commission, led by a retired Supreme Court judge, to investigate the charges against his family. The PTI chief, however, demanded that the incumbent top judge of the country, lead the commission.On Saturday, Interior Minister Nisar said his ministry was willing to investigate the Panama Papers revelation against the Sharif family through the FIA.
“You name officer/officers of the FIA and I will empower him/them to conduct the inquiry,” Nisar said addressing the PTI chairman. “I agree with Imran that the truth must be brought forth, but the issue should not be politicised,” he added.
Nisar said the opposition parties were heaping criticism on the Sharif family over the Panama leaks but were not telling the nation that the names of their own leaders also figured in these documents. “Even the name of my predecessor (Rehman Malik) is on the list of people having offshore companies,” he said.
Conveniently ignoring the resignation of Iceland’s premier over the Panama leaks, Nisar said many heads of state and government named in the documents had not given it any importance.
“The governments in Britain and Argentine called Panama leaks fake, but Premier Nawaz decided to form a judicial commission to probe the allegations,” he said. He added that the government approached two former Supreme Court judges, but they declined to head the commission.
No rallies at D-Chowk
The interior minister categorically said that no political gathering would be allowed at D-Chowk in Islamabad while no one would be allowed to hold a public meeting at F-9 Park either.
He was asked about PTI’s plans to hold a public gathering in Islamabad in connection with its foundation day.
“Parks are recreational facilities and not for political gatherings. The entire country is available for those who want to show their political strength,” he said.
The ban on public gatherings is a temporarily arrangement as some specific place will be specified for this purpose in Islamabad which does not affect the routine life in the capital, he added.
Imran names Dr Suddle
PTI Chairman Imran Khan welcomed the interior minister’s offer and asked him to form an independent commission under former Intelligence Bureau chief Dr Shoaib Suddle to probe the Panama Papers charges against the Sharif family.
“We demand that the government set up an independent commission, headed by Dr Shoaib Suddle,” he said in a statement, but quickly added that the commission must be powerful enough to investigate the scandal.
According to the party, Dr Suddle has a good reputation and the required expertise to deal with such crimes. His most recent assignment was as the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) of Pakistan.
This is not the first time that Suddle’s name has been mentioned in a sensitive and technical probe as previously he was asked by the Supreme Court to probe financial impropriety in a case against Dr Arslan Iftikhar, son of former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2016.