Govt rejects parallel ToRs as ‘mala fide’

Committee formed to engage opposition for consensus ToRs, says Nisar

Obaid Abbasi May 04, 2016
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan addressing a news conference at Punjab House. PHOTO: INP


The government has spurned the parallel terms of reference (ToRs) proposed by nine opposition parties on Tuesday for a judicial inquiry into the Panama Leaks scandal.

“The opposition’s ToRs are unconstitutional and based on mala fide intentions,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a news conference on Wednesday. “It appears their target is Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, not corruption.”

The Panama Papers, a trove of documents leaked from the archives of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca last month, revealed that three scions of the Sharif family were among dozens of world politicians and businessmen who owned offshore companies in tax havens.

The revelations stirred up a political storm prompting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to order an inquiry by a retired senior judge, but it was immediately dismissed by the main opposition groups who insisted on a probe by the country’s top judge.

After weeks-long verbal duel with the opposition, the prime minister finally gave in and requested Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali to form a judicial commission to conduct an inquiry. However, the ToRs of the commission broadened the scope of the inquiry beyond the Panama leaks. The opposition rejected the ToRs and thrashed out their own after a brainstorming session on Tuesday.

In its ToRs, the opposition parties agreed the judicial inquiry into Panama Papers should begin from Premier Nawaz and his family – and that it should be completed within 90 days. Inquiry against the rest of Pakistanis named in the Panama Papers should be completed within a year.

“The government was expecting some constructive ToRs from the opposition, but their proposals show the prime minister is their target,” said Nisar who was flanked by Law Minister Zahid Hamid and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Human Rights Barrister Zafarullah.

He said the government has not formally received the opposition’s ToRs but it has formed a committee which will engage the opposition to thrash out consensus ToRs. “But the opposition should avoid ‘politics’ on the issue,” he added.

The leader of opposition in the National Assembly, Khursheed Shah, is expected to forward the opposition’s ToRs to the government on Thursday (today).

Nisar revealed that all participants of Wednesday’s PML-N meeting rejected the opposition’s ToRs - but the prime minister wanted to move forward to resolve the matter amicably. “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is the only world leader who has offered himself up for accountability since the Panama Papers have been leaked.”

Law Minister Hamid said the opposition proposed in its ToRs that a new law be introduced for Panama leaks commission notwithstanding that the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1956 already exists. The Hamoodur Rehman Commission and Abbottabad Commission had carried out inquiries under the same act, he added.

“The government wants to move forward with sincerity but after studying the opposition’s ToRs it seems they live in another world as they have no confidence in the law of the land,” Hamid said. “All 15 points of the opposition’s ToRs are targeted at the prime minister and his family.”

The scope of the government’s ToRs is broad, he added. “Our [government’s] ToRs are not limited to the Panama leaks.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2016.


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