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Opposition demands ‘forensic audit firm’ probe Panama leaks

ISLAMABAD: Locking horns with the PML-N government in the National Assembly on Friday, opposition members demanded a “forensic audit by a reputable international firm” into revelations made regarding the Sharif family’s offshore accounts in the Panama data leaks.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the government’s explanations regarding the leaks were not satisfactory and reiterated his party’s call for the Chief Justice of Pakistan to head a judicial commission probing the leaks.

He also demanded that the results of the judicial commission be made public.

Qureshi said an international forensic audit firm should be hired to probe the Sharifs, adding that the National Accountability Bureau, the State Bank of Pakistan, the Election Commission of Pakistan and the Federal Board of Revenue should also take action in this regard.

He said it would not be appropriate to target only Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family regarding the leaks, as the Panama Papers also include names of several other prominent Pakistanis, including politicians.

PPP MNA Shazia Marri lamented that the Supreme Court had not taken a suo motu notice on the matter and said Parliament should be informed of where the money that was stashed into offshore companies came from.

She also questioned whether or not the transfer of these funds was restricted by money laundering legislation.

Marri also agreed with the idea of a forensic audit of the Sharif family’s offshore holdings and said it would be prudent if “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stepped down from his post until the probe into the leaks was completed.”

Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid hit out at the opposition, saying that having an offshore firm did not mean the family was involved in illegal practices or that these firms had caused losses to Pakistan’s economy.

Rashid said PTI chief Imran Khan should present a document showing “where the funds for Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital went” and also accused the PTI of “misusing” the funds set aside for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Billion Tree Tsunami project as chants of “Go Nawaz Go” echoed the assembly floor.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmad termed the Panama Papers an “adverse campaign” initiated at an international level in order to create obstacles in Pakistan’s progress.

The minister claimed that ‘some forces’ that do not want completion of the Gwadar Port and other infrastructural projects launched by the PML-N government had resorted to such antics.

Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah lodged a formal complaint with the Speaker on the “selective and biased coverage” of National Assembly debates by Pakistan Television (PTV), mentioning that he has repeatedly highlighted the issue.

“[PTV] usually broadcasts the government’s point of view and in contrast gives little or no coverage to the speeches of opposition benches.”

“You are the custodian of this August House and we are looking towards you to take notice of this discriminatory attitude of PTV against the assurances” given by the Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed to the contrary in an earlier meeting.

Shah also suggested NA sessions be live streamed on the internet “so that all and sundry may be able to listen to the views of their representatives”.

An investigation published April 3 by an international coalition of more than 100 media outlets ─ based on 11.5 million records and 2.6 terabytes of information drawn from the internal database of Panamaian law firm Mossack Fonseca ─ details how politicians, celebrities and other famous people use banks, law firms and offshore shell companies to hide their assets.

According to documents available on the ICIJ website, the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s children Maryam, Hasan and Hussain “were owners or had the right to authorise transactions for several companies”.

The data leak revealed the financial wheelings and dealings of over 200 Pakistanis, including the late Benazir Bhutto, Rehman Malik and other prominent politicians and businessmen.

Nawaz Sharif, in an address to the nation on Tuesday evening announced the constitution of a high-level judicial commission to probe his family for wrongdoing, after the leak revealed his children owned offshore holdings.

 






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