ISLAMABAD: A day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech in the National Assembly, the government and opposition parties
on Wednesday traded barbs over the Panamagate scandal during a raucous session of the lower house of Parliament.
The strongest of punches were thrown by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan who warned the government of street protests unless facts over the Panama Papers leaks are unveiled.
“If the government does not bring to light the facts over Panama Leaks, then
the PTI has a democratic right to come [out on] to the streets,” Imran told the National Assembly on Wednesday.
In his speech, which he was originally supposed to deliver on Monday after PM Nawaz gave his policy statement in the lower house of Parliament, the PTI chief criticised the premier, calling his speech contradictory and accused it of being based on misleading statements.
He added that had the PM made such a speech in any other country, he would have had to resign.
Imran pointed out that the Chief Justice of Pakistan too had rejected the government’s proposed terms of references (ToRs) after declaring them as ‘vague’.
Responding to the PM’s questions about his luxurious lifestyle and flat in UK, Imran said that he had bought it from the money he earned playing cricket. He detailed that after winning the 1992 World Cup, PM Nawaz had gifted him two plots. The plots, Imran said, were donated to Shaukat Khanum Hospital.
“I could have made a sugar mills and Ittefaq Foundry but I donated these plots to the hospital,” he said while taking a swipe at the prime minister before adding that his name did not come up in the Panama leaks and that he had never hid his assets. He went on to present a detailed timeline for properties purchased by Nawaz or his family in the UK.
While clarifying his position, Imran lamented that every time he presented some criticism the government targeted Shaukat Khanum hospital, adding that the government’s job was to take action not level accusations.
He went on to defend the questions asked of the premier, noting that it was his responsibility as an opposition member but noted that the reverse had happened and lamented that the government was terming his criticism a threat to democracy. He urged the government to form a committee to jointly thrash out the TORs without indulging in any point-scoring so that matter could be investigated.
Earlier, opposition leader Khursheed Shah said that the PM should have attended Wednesday’s session to listen to the opposition’s criticism.
“The opposition has no role in Panama leaks, but once it came to light the premier’s sons created confusion by giving contradictory statements,” Shah said.
Noting how the apex court had endorsed the opposition’s stance on the ToRs, Shah again offered the government to sit with the opposition to thrash out the terms for probing Panama leaks noting that this was the beginning and not the end of the scandal.
Calling for the accountability process to begin from the prime minister, Shah pointed out how Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah paid tax worth Rs4,489 in 1939 but Nawaz as prime minister paid only Rs2,700 tax in 1992. He went on to detail Nawaz’s tax history of paying a total of Rs0.65 million in taxes in 14 years, contesting the PM’s claim of paying Rs36 million in taxes over the past 23 years.
Responding to opposition’s criticism, Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif slammed Imran by stating that it is unfortunate those levelling corruption allegations themselves do not have clean hands.
However, as Asif started to speak, Imran left the assembly.
The minister informed the house that Imran’s charity foundation had collected Rs4 billion worth of donation for the floods in 2010 but there is no record of the money.
During Imran’s speech, lawmakers from treasury benches and opposition kept exchanging slogans against each other and that practice continued when Asif rose up to speak.
PPP wants copies of Sharif family’s documents in ECP
The PPP has approached ECP to access documents submitted by PM Nawaz and his family since 1990.
Ex-chairman Senate Nayyar Hussain Bukhari submitted an application to the Chief Election Commissioner on Wednesday through his lawyer Sardar Latif Khosa.
Former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had filed a similar application with the ECP a few days ago.
Khosa in his application requested the CEC to provide attested copies of nomination papers filed by Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Hamza Shahbaz, Ishaq Dar, Captain (Retd.) Safdar in any of the legislative houses — Punjab Assembly, National Assembly or Senate — from 1990 to 2013.
Yearly asset declarations, tax returns, and other related documents these PML-N leaders filed with the commission have also been sought.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2016.