LAHORE: Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid on Sunday said that the judicial commission formed by the government to probe the disclosures made in the Panama Papers was a litmus test of character because its verdict will be welcomed by those who are honest and rejected by those who are dishonest. The minister defended the terms of reference (ToRs) for the inquiry commission.
Speaking to reporters at the Lahore Press Club, Rashid claimed that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s refusal to accept the commission was a victory for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who had taken up the challenge of creating a judicial commission last week.
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He went on to claim that Imran’s refusal to accept the comprehensive ToRs for the commission exposed skeletons in the cupboards of PTI leaders, some of whom, Rashid alleged, were involved in corruption cases.
“Imran and his companions will be exposed during the first few days of the constitution of the commission,” he said adding that he it was good that PTI leaders will face the strainer of accountability before the 2018 general elections exposing their honesty and morality before the nation.
He added that the commission will look into different issues, including the legality of offshore companies, commissions, kick-backs and cases of writing-off loans and it would then affix responsibility while exposing those who plundered public money.
Rashid also stoutly defended the ToRs stating that it would help expose all those who were involved in tax evasion and bank defaults.
Countering criticism from opposition parties that the government should have taken the opposition on board to formulate the ToRs, Rashid said that all suggestions raised in parliament, in the media and consultations undertaken with other political parties by federal ministers Ishaq Dar, Saad Rafique and others were incorporated in the ToRs.
Responding to a question, Rashid said that Nawaz and his family have been victimised in the past, twice by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PP) and once by General (retired) Pervez Musharraf, but on each of those occasions nothing was proven.
“Thrice we were put through the strainer of accountability by opponents, and one was the worst opponent who wanted to exterminate us, but the prime minister came out clean on all these occasions,” the information minister said, adding that the premier was once again presenting himself up for accountability.
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Without naming anyone, Rashid said that some elements who wished to halt economic progress were utilising allegations of electoral rigging and Panama Papers. He added that security institutions had hinted in the past that some international forces, including regional powers, found Pakistan’s economic progress ill-suited for their hegemonic designs and were involved in derailing economic progress in the country through various conspiracies.
“Some players started a puppet show on a container to stop such a huge investment [China-Pakistan Economic Corridor] in the country but the government not only defeated these elements but announced work on all the projects within six months of the foundation laying ceremonies,” he said.
Answering a question, Rashid deplored the sentiments of Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Aitzaz Ahsan. He asked the PPP senator why he had repeatedly urged Nawaz to lead the movement for restoring the judiciary when Musharraf had removed the then chief justice of Pakistan.
Speaking on the occasion, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Human Rights Barrister Zafarullah Khan said that the commission was empowered to investigate Pakistani citizens, people of Pakistani origin living abroad, trusts, legal entities, partnership and offshore companies, in addition to summoning public office-holders from a peon to the president.
He added that all agencies such as the FIA, NAB, FBR along with federal and provincial institutions were subordinate to the commission.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2016.
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