The government has decided to investigate all Pakistanis named in the Panama Papers through a judicial commission headed by a retired judge, rebuffing the opposition’s demand for a probe into the scandal through a serving judge.
On Thursday, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar after a marathon huddle with senior leaders of the ruling party finalised the government’s strategy with three major components: legal, political and administrative measures, to deal with the mounting pressure.
The government has been under tremendous pressure since the Panama Papers revealed the names of around 220 Pakistanis, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s immediate family members, keeping offshore accounts in international tax havens.
While the premier has already ordered an inquiry led by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, the Imran Khan-led PTI has threatened to stage a sit-in outside the Sharif family house in Raiwind if the government does not order an impartial investigation by the country’s top judge.
The government went ahead with its stance while finalising the terms of reference (ToRs) for the judicial inquiry through a former judge to establish if any of those named in the Panama leaks committed any illegality in financial transactions.
“Since the Supreme Court chief justice has already expressed his intent through his remarks, we would go for a retired judge-led commission,” a minister told The Express Tribune.
The commission will be set up under the inquiry commission act and notified in the next few days. It will have the power to summon any individual or institution and hire the services of any agency to help it investigate the matter.
Some retired judges of the apex court have already declined the government’s offer to head the new commission. Prominent among those are former SC chief justices Nasirul Mulk and Tassadiq Hussian Jilani.
Unconfirmed reports claim the government has also approached Justice (retd) Sarmad Jalal Usmani.
A participant at the meeting held at the PM House said the main objective of the commission is to determine who amongst the accused infringed laws and committed illegal acts. “The commission will examine the case of every Pakistani national, whose name has come up in Panama Papers. This will not be only limited to the Sharif family alone.”
The government would share the ToRs of its proposed commission with other political parties for which it has allocated separate teams.
Parallel to the legal course of action, the meeting also chalked out the government’s strategy to deal with the issue politically. Dar would form separate teams to target different political parties with each team tasked to accost a political group to woo them into accepting the proposed ToRs.
The administrative task of tackling the protesting parties has been left to Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
The government team later sent its detailed plan to PM Nawaz, who is in London for a medical checkup.
A statement issued by the PM House after the meeting said the PML-N leadership has vowed not to be deterred by the “conspiracies and the spate of ridiculous allegations against the PM” and to continue with the national development agenda.
Dar said the PM had asked the party leaders not to pay any heed to the conspiracies being hatched against the progressive and development agenda of his government and focus on early completion of the mega-development schemes.
The meeting was attended by the Punjab CM, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, Safron Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Law Minister Zahid Hamid, Railways Minister Saad Rafique, Senator Mushahidullah Khan and Maryam Nawaz. Former Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan and the Attorney General of Pakistan also participated.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2016.