The government has written a letter to the top court to constitute a commission to probe the Panama Papers leaks.
But the nation will probably have to wait till next month for the court’s response as the Supreme Court (SC) chief justice will decide the matter following his return to Pakistan in May.
The SC’s senior judge Justice Mian Saqib Nisar – who took oath as the acting chief justice on Saturday – said the decision on the federal government’s request will be taken by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali after his return from Turkey.
Govt announces ‘open-ended’ inquiry
Talking to media after his oath-taking ceremony, Justice Nisar said being an acting chief justice he was not authorised to respond to the government’s letter.
Chief Justice Jamali is likely to return to Pakistan on May 1.
In an informal talk with reporters, another SC judge Justice Dost Muhammad Khan said: “The government in its terms of references (ToRs) has widened the scope of the investigation. It is the nation’s demand to form a commission.”
SC registrar Arbab Arif also confirmed the law ministry’s letter about formation of a commission had been sent to the chief justice. “But a decision will be made after the CJP’s return,” he added.
Panama Papers, a trove of documents leaked from the archives of a Panama-based law firm, has named Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s three children among over 200 Pakistanis for owning offshore companies.
Special cabinet meeting: Our hands are clean: PM Nawaz
Succumbing to mounting political pressure, the government on Friday sent a letter to the Supreme Court registrar, requesting the chief justice to form a judicial commission to probe the allegations.
The government also notified the ToRs for the proposed commission, which, according to the law ministry, will ascertain if any Pakistani citizen, including current and former public office holders, has ever been involved in financial corruption within Pakistan or abroad.
Commission to investigate Panama Paper leaks expected within 48 hours: Nisar
Legal experts have urged the CJP not to nominate any judge to head the ‘powerless’ commission, saying the government is trying to complicate the issue by including the matter of bank loans written off in the past.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Ali Zafar said he believed that the federal government is going to form a ‘powerless’ commission to probe the information divulged in the Panama Papers.
“I am sure the Supreme Court will not accept this toothless inquiry commission as it will be unacceptable to the apex court,” he said. “We are considering convening a meeting of all the representatives of lawyers soon to evolve future strategy on Panama leaks issue,” he added.
According to Zafar, the ToRs are limited and the government has not given powers to the commission to collect relevant evidence abroad. He said the government is trying to befool the nation and complicate the issue by giving inadequate ToRs.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2016.