Panama leaks: Opposition MPs outraged by govt ad campaign

Members submit notice in NA, demands answers from govt

Our Correspondent April 29, 2016
ECP releases details of assets and liabilities of lawmakers. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The opposition on Thursday came down hard on the government for squandering public money through newspaper advertisements on the Panama leaks in order to promote its “personal agenda”.

The denouncement came through an opposition motion against the newspaper advertisements in the National Assembly.

Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Shazia Marri, Naveed Qamar, Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah, Imran Zafar Laghari and Shugufta Jumani submitted the notice in the National Assembly Secretariat on Thursday.

The government on Thursday ran large advertisements in most national newspapers of the country sharing news clippings and carrying a statement of International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) where they stated that an editing error implied that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif operated companies owned by his children.

The ICIJ had in early April released stories based on 11.5 million leaked documents about 200,000 offshore firms in international tax havens which had been set up by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonsecka for the wealthy and powerful to stash their money. The leak contained documents that tied three scions of Nawaz to offshore firms through which they owned several properties in London.

The revelations had prompted the opposition to demand an inquiry into the matter. While Nawaz offered to create a commission headed by a retired judge, the opposition demanded a probe to be led by the chief justice of Pakistan, which the government eventually conceded.

The PPP MNAs in their notice stated that they “would like to invite the attention of the Minister for Information and Broadcasting towards the gross misuse of public funds by the government especially to run the personal exoneration campaign for the prime minister and his family in relation to Panama leaks through half, front page advertisement in print media.”

They further added that such “lavish use of public funds” to promote “personal agenda” is not only a waste of tax payers’ hard earned money but also a “blatant violation of the law, as no law of the land allows spending public money for personal motives.”

“This is a matter of grave public concern and needs immediate attention of the house,” the notice concluded.

The notice is expected to be taken up at the next session of the assembly.

Qamar, who is an active legislator of PPP in the NA, told The Express Tribune that “everybody will [raise] questions when public money is used for personal gain.”

Referring to the latest advertisements, the PPP leader said the argument the government is propagating is misconstrued since the ICIJ statement was not an apology. Rather, he claimed that the group of journalists were reiterating their stance that the name of the prime minister’s family was mentioned in the leaks.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th,  2016.



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