Several leading opposition groups agreed on Monday that the public clamour for accountability over the recent disclosure of influential Pakistanis holding offshore accounts in international tax havens should begin from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family.
The specific call was made as part of a five-point declaration, which was jointly presented by the PPP’s Qamar Zaman Kaira and PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi Monday evening.
The opposition parties agreed that there is a need to probe all those Pakistanis — thought to be in excess of 200 — named in the Panama Papers.
After a marathon meeting between the opposition parties including Pakistan Peoples Party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and others at the residence of Aitzaz Ahsan, leader of the opposition in the Senate, they agreed to form a committee which will be tasked to finalise the terms of references (ToRs) for any probe.
The government has already requested the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) to form a judicial commission to investigate revelations in the Panama Papers. But the move could not impress the opposition.
In their five-point declaration, the opposition groups rejected the government-proposed ToRs for the Judicial Commission in its current form.
Addressing the media after their meeting, Kaira said that political parties had provided their input on the ToRs and after consultations had agreed to form a committee which would finalise the opposition’s working terms for the probe.
When asked whether any time-frame has been set for this committee to complete its work, Kaira said that it has been tasked to complete its work as soon as possible.
This committee, however, is expected to convene Tuesday morning at Ahsan’s residence.
Further, the declaration added that the opposition had agreed that any commission formed by the government to probe the Panama Papers should be granted legal cover in consultation with the opposition.
Despite having individually called for the prime minister to step down, the opposition parties surprisingly failed to develop a consensus on the matter.
“We think that the prime minister has failed to perform his moral responsibilities after revelations of Panama leaks,” Kaira said while quoting the five-point declaration, but stopped short of demanding Nawaz’s resignation.
When reporters pressed him on this subject, Kaira dodged it by cryptically stating that “we have said that the PM, being chief executive, has failed to perform his moral duties and it encompasses everything.”
“Make interpretations at your own peril,” he quipped when the question was repeated.
CJP starts consultations over PM’s letter
Earlier in the day, Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali resumed his official work after visiting Turkey.
He formally reviewed the federal government’s letter which requests the CJP to nominate judges of the apex court for an inquiry commission to investigate the Panama leaks.
Sources in the judiciary told The Express Tribune that the chief justice has informally discussed the government’s letter as well as the proposed ToRs to investigate Panama Leaks, with judges has not taken a final decision on the letter.
On the other hand, Supreme Court’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) denied media reports suggesting that the CJP had held a meeting with senior judges over the issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2016.