ISLAMABAD: Opposition parties on Friday counted as their first victory Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s act of writing a letter to the apex court chief justice on forming a body to probe the Panama leaks.
They, however, expressed their discomfort over the terms of references (ToRs) of the proposed commission that would investigate the Panama Papers scandal, lamenting they were not consulted before these were finalised.
“It’s the first victory of the opposition but we reject the ToRs as opposition parties
were not taken on board,” Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi told The Express Tribune.
Qureshi said the prime minister announced his intention of writing a letter in the wake of opposition pressure, but we (opposition parties) need to see the text of the letter as the government has made its own ToRs, which is not acceptable to the opposition. All opposition parties, according to him, have agreed to continue to discuss the matter of ToRs.
Shah made it clear that though the opposition parties were promised they would be taken on board before the ToRs were finalized yet the government failed to do so, which indicated its “mala fide intentions”.
Govt announces ‘open-ended’ inquiry
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) also rejected the premier’s speech saying there was nothing new in it. The party’s spokesman, Senator Farhatullah Babar, in his statement, said it was no more than a personal explanation at public expense. The prime minister alluded to a connection between General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s accountability and called for his stepping down. “This needs to be explained,” said Senator Babar in a statement.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was less forgiving. He asked the prime minister to resign. In his tweet, the PPP chairman said, “The prime minister has yet to present himself before parliament and explain himself. He should follow his own advice and resign.”
The opposition parties also agreed to contact each other over the ToRs and are likely to announce their joint stance in a couple of days.
Even the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), a member of the ruling coalition, rejected the ToRs and said that the party would look at the ToRs as JUI-F believed that these are more important than a letter. The party’s information secretary, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, said the prime minister should have made the announcement in his earlier speech to the nation. He said the move had lost some of its value, especially after the army chief announced a purge of graft-tainted servicemen. “Despite the fact that JUI-F is a coalition partner of the ruling party, we will not support our allies over corruption charges,” he added.
Panama leaks probe: Govt, opposition spar over inquiry panel
Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq, whose party is currently campaigning against corruption, also expressed concerns over the government’s ToRs and asked it to make it public. Haq asked the opposition parties to write a letter to the apex court as well. “I believe one letter should be written to the apex court as well from the opposition parties,” the JI chief said after a telephonic conversation with opposition leader Khursheed Shah on Friday. Haq also said he believes the premier should have resigned on moral grounds.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2016.