ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said he would resign if any wrongdoing is proved against him before the commission formed to investigate offshore wealth in the wake of Panama Papers revelations.
“I challenge those accusing me of wrongdoing to prove that before the commission and if anything is proved, I will step down without any delay,” Nawaz Sharif said while addressing the nation on Friday.
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.
“Making Panama [Papers] leaks as the basis, some elements are hurling allegations at me,” the premier said, saying he was ready for an accountability of himself and his family.
About forming a commission to investigate the allegations, the PM said he will approach the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
“I hereby announce to write to the chief justice, asking him to lead the judicial commission, which will investigate revelations made in the Panama Papers,” he said.
Taking the nation into confidence once again within two weeks, he said, “I will accept the recommendations of this commission.”
However, he went on to say, if the allegations are not proved, those levelling them will have to apologise before the nation and will be held answerable.
Earlier, the Sharif family said none of the corporations mentioned in Panama Papers, were owned or run by Nawaz Sharif. It also highlighted 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.
The documents, from around 214,000 offshore entities, came from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm with offices in more than 35 countries.
In his address to the nation more than two weeks ago, the prime minister had said he was compelled to respond to the politically-motivated allegations against the Sharif family, making rounds on media.
Law ministry writes letter to Supreme Court
Meanwhile, the federal law ministry has written to the Supreme Court, asking the CJP to lead the investigative commission on priority basis.
According to Express News, in a letter to the registrar of the apex court in accordance with the 1956 Act of the Constitution, the acting federal secretary also detailed the terms of reference (ToRs) of the commission.
While Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq welcomed the announcement, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly while speaking to Express News, said “We will be satisfied when an international audit firm will become part of the inquiry commission.”
PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi said his party would give its response following a study of the commission’s TORs.
The inquiry commission shall have the following ToRs:
• To examine information relating to
(a) Involvement of Pakistani citizens, persons of Pakistan origin and legal entities in offshore companies in Panama or in any other country; and,
(b) Involvement of former and present holders of public office in:-
(i) Writing off their own bank loans or those of their immediate family members through political influence; and,
(ii) Transfer from Pakistan of funds which have originated from corruption, commissions or kickbacks;
• To determine whether, in any case referred to in (1) (a) and (b) above, any law for the time being in force in Pakistan has been infringed;
• In case the answer to (2) above is affirmative, to determine responsibility for such infringement; and,
• To make such recommendations as may be deemed appropriate.
• The commission shall, in addition to the powers under Section 4 of the Act, have all the additional powers under section 5 ibid, including the powers mentioned in sub-paragraphs (1) to (4) below
(1) The commission shall have powers under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 for
(a) Summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person, including a tax expert or accountant, and examining him on oath;
(b) Requiring the discovery and production of any documents;
(c) Receiving evidence on affidavits;
(d) Issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses on documents; and,
(e) Requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office.
(2) The commission shall have the powers to require any person, subject to any privilege which may be claimed by that person under any law for the time being in force, to furnish information on such point or matters as, in the opinion of the commission, may be useful for, or relevant to, the subject matter of the inquiry.
(3) Any officer not below the rank of a gazetted officer, specially authorized in this behalf by the president of the commission may enter any building or place where the commission has reason to believe that any books of account or other documents relating to the subject matter of the inquiry may be found, and may seize any such books of account or documents or take extracts or copies therefrom subject to the provisions of section 102 and section 103 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, insofar as they may be applicable.
(4) Any proceeding before the commission shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of sections 193 and 228 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860.
• The commission shall be assisted by all the concerned authorities of the federal and provincial governments.
• The commission shall start the inquiry at a place and on a date to be fixed by it and shall submit its report to the Federal Government in accordance with its Terms of Reference.
• The Cabinet Division shall provide secretarial assistance to the Commission
SCBA rejects TORs
The Supreme Court Bar Association has rejected the ToRs of the inquiry commission to probe Panama Papers revelations.
SCBA President Ali Zafar while talking to The Express Tribune said the government was forming a ‘powerless’ commission to investigate Panama leaks, which may not be acceptable to the Supreme Court as well.
“I am sure that the Supreme Court will not accept this powerless inquiry commission.”