Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has said that a high-level cell comprising federal investigation agencies will probe more than 700 Pakistanis named in the Pandora Papers scandal and ascertain which offshore companies were illegal or involved in money laundering.
Fawad, while briefing the media following the federal cabinet meeting in Islamabad, said the matter of Pandora Papers was discussed in the meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday.
Pakistanis who own offshore companies have been classified into three categories, he said, adding that those who did not declare their offshore assets or found involved in money laundering will be probed by National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) officials.
Fawad said setting-up an offshore company and declaring it in the tax records is not an offence.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday set up a ‘high-level cell’ to investigate roughly 700 Pakistanis, including his own cabinet ministers, retired generals and businessmen, who were named in the Pandora Papers – a huge tranche of leaked data on offshore companies.
Also read: Pandora Papers undrape corrupt leaders
The information minister had earlier announced that the cell was formed under the Prime Minister's Inspection Commission and it will question all individuals who were part of the Pandora Leaks. “Facts will be placed before the nation,” the government’s spokesperson had said.
Speaking about other issues discussed in today’s meeting, Fawad said the cabinet has decided to reduce sentences of prisoners on the occasion of upcoming Eid Miladun Nabi (PBUH), which will be celebrated with utmost reverence this year.
The minister said Prime Minister's Adviser Dr Babar Awan informed the meeting that the opposition was invited to come up with its recommendations on the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the next general elections but to no avail.
Fawad said the government will take this matter to the joint session of the parliament, but at the same time it will continue convincing the opposition over the issue.
The government was working on electoral reforms, including the use of EVMs, to ensure free, fair, transparent, and credible elections in the country, he maintained.
Fresh census approved
Meanwhile, the federal cabinet has also given approval for a fresh census that will be conducted through the use of "modern technology" in line with the global best practices, Federal Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar said in a tweet.
The minister said that after the approval of the cabinet, the government will now move the Council of Common Interests (CCI) so that a fresh census could be held before the next general elections.
"This will be the first time in Pakistan's history that a census would be conducted within five years," he added.
Cabinet gave the approval for holding a census using modern digital technology and consistent with global best practices. Proposal for approval of CCI for holding the census will be moved soon. This will be first time in Pak history census will be held with a gap of only 5 years— Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) October 5, 2021
He also appreciated that the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) team that "produced the census strategy".
"Leading experts from academia & think tanks from all provinces were consulted to formulate proposed census strategy," he added.
I congratulate PBS team which produced the census strategy, under guidance of deputy chairman planning commission. Leading experts from academia & think tanks from all provinces were consulted to formulate proposed census strategy. 1st ever modern census in Pakistan inshallah pic.twitter.com/L8gmJ66m0o— Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) October 5, 2021
It may be noted that the Sindh government had expressed reservations over the 2017 census that was approved in April this year after a period of four years.
Due to the reservations expressed by many political parties including the PPP and MQM-Pakistan over alleged manipulation and undercounting in the process, the government had decided to hold a fresh count.
Last month, Umar had said the next general elections in the country would be conducted on the basis of a new census.
In May, the PBS had posted the final results of the 6th Population and Housing Census 2017 on its website, according to which the country’s total population stands at 207.68 million, with an annual growth rate of 2.4 per cent. The population includes 106.018m males, 101.344m females and 321,744 transgender persons.
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