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Govt, opposition stalemate on Panama ToRs persists

ISLAMABAD: Government and opposition are no way near reaching a consensus on the Terms of References (ToRs) for inquiry on Panama Papers data leak, Senator Aitzaz Ahsan said on Monday.

“Government did not accept opposition’s ToRs and gave their own which were not different to what the Supreme Court had already rejected,” Ahsan told a news conference in Islamabad.

Ahsan, who is a senior Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader, revealed that the joint opposition had agreed to accept three of the four points put forward by the government and demanded that the fourth point deal directly with inquiry into the Panama Papers’ revelations.

“The basic difference between the government and the opposition on the ToRs was that the government wanted an open-ended inquiry which would have enabled investigations on the Abbotabad commission report and Hamood-ur-Rehman commission etcetera,” he said.

In such a scenario the relevant commission will get caught up in dealing with thousands of cases that have no connection whatsoever to the Panama data leaks, remarked Aitzaz.

But the Panama Papers data leak concerns fiscal crimes where money was moved across countries in secret ways through secret accounts, he added.

“Therefore, we want an inquiry specifically on Panama Papers, which should be empowered by a special law with some key points,” Ahsan said.

He then went on to list six “fundamental points” that the special law must take into account:

  • Direct or immediate family of respondent will also come under purview of investigation
  • Those named in the Panama Papers should sign legal agreement whereby their financial details are investigated
  • Burden of proof: the onus of proving that the money is white should be on the person being investigated
  • The respondent must reveal the name and details of the property seller to ascertain whether or not the seller belongs to a respectable profession.
  • The law should apply equally to all respondents whose names have appeared in Panama Papers data leak
  • Investigation should start from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family as opposition wants to give him the chance to clear his name first

Government and opposition leaders had agreed on May 18to form a 12-member parliamentary committee — including six members each from both sides — that will draft the ToR for the proposed commission to be headed by the chief justice of Pakistan for holding an inquiry against those owning offshore companies as revealed by the Panama Papers leaks.

Both government and the opposition parties had agreed that besides concentrating on the individuals named in the Panama Papers, the committee will also go after those who received kickbacks and commissions, as well as those who had their loans written off illegally.

On May 31, the committee ended its fourth meeting without even discussing the issue.

According to independent observers, the committee may not reach consensus because both sides are poles apart as far as their expectations are concerned.


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