Panama leaks: Opposition invites government to settle probe terms

Published: May 6, 2016
SHARES
Email
Opposition parties also demand that their ToRs be made part of a proposed Enquiry and Trial Act, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

Opposition parties also demand that their ToRs be made part of a proposed Enquiry and Trial Act, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: 

The opposition formally conveyed on Thursday its proposed terms of reference (ToRs) to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as it expressed its willingness to hold talks with the government to reach an amicable settlement with regard to a mechanism for investigations into the Panama leaks.

The Panama Papers, a trove of leaked documents, revealed that three scions of the Sharif family were among dozens of world politicians and businessmen who owned offshore companies in tax havens.

PM Nawaz rebuffs opposition’s clamour over Panama leaks

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, the prime minister finally gave in and requested Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali to form a judicial commission to conduct an inquiry under commission of inquiry act, 1956. However, the government’s ToRs 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 their 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.  Opposition parties also demanded that their ToRs be made part of a proposed Enquiry and Trial Act, 2016 – a special law to be passed to facilitate the investigation.

Imran rejects leaks inquiry based on premier’s letter as rift grows

The government on Wednesday rejected the ToRs, terming them “unconstitutional and based on mala fide intentions”. Addressing a press conference, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had said, “It appears their [the opposition parties’] target is Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, not corruption.”

However, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah on Thursday told reporters that “We are ready to sit with the government if they have objections over clauses of our ToRs,” said.

Shah, who belongs to the major opposition group PPP, said he had also formally sent a letter to the prime minister to convey to him the opposition parties’ ToRs for the proposed commission to probe the scandal.

“The opposition parties are not in a mood of fighting. The government should hold talks with the opposition over the ToRs,” he said, adding that the problem could be settled through dialogue.

He said the opposition has also asked the prime minister to reply to his letter. “However, it does not mean that the government must accept our ToRs as they are. If the government has any objection over some clause then it can indicate those areas,” he added.

Panama leaks: Opposition parties agree upon ToRs, seek PM family probe first

Shah criticised the prime minister for addressing the nation twice after emergence of the scandal. “We are not targeting the prime minister. He is the chief executive and therefore we have put him on top [for accountability],” he added

After the emergence of Panama leaks, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, had started demanding that the prime minister step down till inquiry was completed. Later, the PPP also joined the flurry after its Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also made a similar demand.

However, when two smaller parties – Aftab Sherpao led Qaumi Watan Party and Asfandyar Wali’s ANP – disagreed with the demand during the opposition’s meeting, the PPP acquiesced, sources said. Now, the PTI appeared to be left alone in its demand for the prime minister’s resignation.

Analysts say the government is aware of the division within the opposition’s ranks and its lack of resolve to give it any tough time. This will help the government use delaying tactics.

ToRs in a bill

President Mamnoon Hussain has summoned sessions of the National Assembly and Senate from Monday (May 9). Unless amended, this will be the last session of the current parliamentary year. Joint session of parliament to commence new parliamentary year is scheduled for the first week of June, immediately after the budget session.

Under these circumstance, the coming session will be the only viable opportunity for the opposition parties to press for their demand to enact specific law they proposed to investigate the Panama leaks.

Shah’s letter received

Sources said Shah’s letter had been received at the Prime Minister House and was sent to the Ministry of Law to review its legal and constitutional aspects. They said a team of legal experts was also asked to draft its reply. They said the government would also hold consultation with its allies over its own and opposition’s ToRs.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2016.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (2)

  • Last Man Alive
    May 6, 2016 - 9:56AM

    Being a kind person that Mr. Khurshi Shah is the common people of

    this country expect his magnanimity in disclosing the secret of

    becoming a billionaire from the humble post of a WAPDA

    meter reader so the other common people could

    also become billionaires and then condemn

    the poilce for registering case against

    a “leader” for merely abusing a

    policeman for trying to do

    his duty. Recommend

  • NHA
    May 6, 2016 - 1:42PM

    As head of Opposition Khursheed Shah has as vital a responsibility as the PM and Govt have to ensue smooth functioning of state affairs. Disruption is not an option.

    The effort should be to make the probe transparent , inclusive and purpose oriented. Mere targeting the PM and few others will only compromise the effort and bring bad name for all including PPP .

    As for PTI , its priority is to get in at any cost. That is dangerous. Pakistan can not afford destabilization and mayhem at this point in time.

    Khursheed Shah and PPP should show maturity and lead the opposition responsibility and do not let any one party’s agenda prevail. Recommend

More in Pakistan