The government is sticking to its stance on the terms of references (ToRs) of the Panama Papers inquiry commission despite increasing pressure from the opposition.
The ruling party even seemed to have stiffened its position on Tuesday as a close aide of the prime minister said the ToRs would not be reviewed.
Panama leaks probe: Opposition ramps up pressure on govt
Law and Justice Minister Zahid Hamid rejected the opposition’s proposal to have its input on the inquiry procedure drafted by the government “to make the commission independent”.
“We have decided not to review the ToRs as the opposition parties are just politicking over the issue,” he said while talking to reporters outside the parliament.
The opposition parties had rejected the government’s ToRs and demanded incorporating their input for the inquiry terms.
The government, however, seems least interested in showing flexibility, as the law minister said his ministry had drafted the ToRs “with honesty”.
Opposition parties have decided to meet on May 2 to devise their future course of action. The Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has already announced a countrywide campaign against corruption.
Panama Papers: Hectic political contacts over leaks inquiry
Hamid criticised the opposition parties for unnecessarily dragging on the issue since the government has written a letter to the apex court to form a judicial commission.
The prime minister, he added, has already addressed the nation twice and pledged impartial investigation so there is no justification to criticise the government.
“The opposition had demanded writing a letter to the apex court and now when the government has done that, they have backtracked from their demand,” the minister said. The apex court is expected to take up the application on May 2 as well after Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali returns from Turkey. Acting Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar has refused to entertain the request, saying he is not authorised to respond to the government’s letter.
The opposition parties, on the other hand, have intensified efforts to evolve consensus on how to take on the government. PPP’s Khursheed Shah, who heads the opposition in the National Assembly, called Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq and PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi. The leaders agreed to draft their own ToRs for the Panama commission at a meeting of all opposition parties called on May 2 at the residence of Aitzaz Ahsan, who leads the opposition in the Senate.
Panama leaks: ‘Consultation over ToRs will serve govt’s interest best’
A delegation led by Shah is also expected to visit Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid at his residence to formally invite him for all parties’ conference.
Corruption Mitao campaign
PTI’s Qureshi, who landed in Sindh to garner support of more political parties, called for launching an investigation into all corruption scandals, starting with the Panama Papers.
Talking to reporters outside the Karachi airport, he said the PTI and all other opposition parties demand the formation of a transparent and empowered commission to investigate the leaks, which, he added, carried broad ethical and moral implications. Qureshi said the government should hire the services of international forensic audit firms.
He also appreciated the ‘principled stance’ of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on forming the commission.
The PTI leader is in Sindh on a five-day tour in a bid to launch ‘Corruption Mitao Sindh Bachao’ campaign from Karachi on Imran Khan’s instructions.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2016.
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