Government rejects opposition ToRs on Panama Leaks probe
Says ToRs based on ill-intention, aimed to entangle PM, save skin of own people; opposition have no trust in SC, legal system and their own case
ISLAMABAD: The government has rejected the terms of reference (ToRs) for the judicial commission to probe the Panama Leaks proposed by the opposition, arguing that these ToRs or based on ill-intentions and are aimed at entangling Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and saving the skin of their own people.
The government questioned whether the proponents of the ToRs have any trust in the Supreme Court, the country’s legal system and their own case. A high-level meeting at the Prime Minister House on Wednesday agreed that the document unveiled by the opposition aren’t ToRs but a parallel legal system that couldn’t be accepted for any inquiry under the relevant laws. The meeting of PML-N stalwarts headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif discussed the overall situation created by the hardliners of the opposition with regard to the Panama Leaks.
Highly placed sources told The News later in the evening that the huddle was attended by Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, federal ministers Zahid Hamid, Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Ahsan Iqbal, Special Assistant to the PM for Legal Affairs Barrister Zafarullah Khan and others.
Nawaz Sharif reportedly told the participants that he has no fear of facing any court or forum to establish his innocence since honesty and fairplay had throughout been his personnel and his family’s trait in the life. He was of the view that the agitation of the opposition isn’t without any purpose. He said the only motive of the conspiracy is to create instability in the country so that the wheel of development and progress could be halted.
The huddle that continued for more than two hours also discussed political situation prevailing across the country as recent public gatherings addressed by the prime minister also came under discussion. The participants appreciated the message that the prime minister has been delivering in the gatherings and maintained that huge gatherings have demonstrated yet another time the massive support of the people for the government of Nawaz Sharif.
While discussing the ToRs of a group of opposition for the proposed probe commission, the meeting termed it an obnoxious document that has been drafted to malign Nawaz and his family alone with the sole motive of mudslinging on them but it has no remote link with the justice or independent probe. Incidentally, the so-called ToRs don’t have any relevance with the Panama Papers as well. “The document prepared by the opposition could be anything but not ToRs,” legal experts of the government opined. Despite this, the government would wait for the receipt of the opposition’s ToRs before constituting a committee for further analysis of it and if required it would have negotiations with the opposition’s committee. The prime minster assigned Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan the task of handling the political onslaught of the groups hell-bent to create chaos in the country. He will look after the political aspects of the ensuing developments. It is likely that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who has acted as trouble-shooter of the government on several occasions, would head the committee that will have talks with the counterpart committee of the opposition, the sources said. Ishaq Dar is currently out of the country and he is expected to return later this week. The prime minister told his interlocutors that he would have consultations with the parliamentary groups including the independents supporting the government in first place while he would continue to have interactions with the fellow members of the Parliament side-by-side.
Nawaz announced in the meeting that he would continue to visit various places across the county to inspect developmental projects and initiate new ones. He said he will keep on meeting the people as it is his duty to maintain contact with them who have given him unprecedented mandate.
Meanwhile, addressing a press conference, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Zahid Hamid and Barrister Zafarullah said the government will engage with the opposition to take Panama Papers issue to its logical conclusion.
Nisar said a particular group is deliberately targeting Nawaz Sharif on account of Panama Papers allegations instead of purging corruption from the country. The minister said that some political elements want to make the personality of the premier controversial for their vested interests and objectives.
“The government is willing to and keen on taking Panama Leaks issue to its logical conclusion and that’s the goodwill of the government that Nawaz Sharif reacted first and addressed the nation to bring truth before the people of Pakistan,” said the minister, adding that the prime minister announced to constitute a judicial commission to probe Panama Leaks allegations, but the opposition parties, instead of taking this issue to the conclusion, wanted to create chaos on account of this issue. “Some people want media trial of the government to fulfil their objectives,” Nisar said.
He said the government contacted former chief justices of Pakistan for a transparent inquiry into Panama Leaks, but all retired judges refused to head the commission in wake of opposition parties’ uproar. Later, he said, a series of demands was initiated on the issue for inquiry through the FIA, or a parliamentary committee and later demand on part of opposition from the prime minister to write a letter to the chief justice of Pakistan was made, but the opposition leadership backtracked from all their demands, which hinted at the fact that some elements in the opposition are trying to continue media trial of the government.
The minister said the government is willing to bring truth before the nation, but seriousness on the part of opposition is very doubtful as they come with new allegations daily. He said the opposition is targeting the prime minister instead of demonstrating any seriousness to make an end to corruption from the country. “Who can dictate the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and who can influence the apex court, but a theatre is being staged on account of ToRs,” he said, adding that it seems the opposition does not believe in the SC credibility. He said Nawaz has categorically stated that if corruption of even a penny was proved against him, he will leave the premiership, but even then the opposition leadership is making endeavours to complicate the situation through different tactics.
He said that some politicians have made it their habit that they accept only those judgements of the apex court that benefit them and a specific group in politics is moving heavens and earths to make personality of the premier controversial and are staging processions, conferences and media trail to accomplish their vested agenda. The minister requested the opposition parties to let people of Pakistan come to know the truth and not to fool them anymore by making hurdles in the way to the truth on Panama Leaks.
Nisar said children of the prime minister are willing to appear and record their statements before the SC. The minister said that all those elements who have been accomplice in tax evading for years were also hurling allegations.
Responding to the PTI chairman’s allegations against the PML-N and Punjab police for misbehaving with women in the PTI rallies, the minister said that he is willing to constitute a committee, comprising representatives of media and PTI administrators, to identify all the people through Nadra and punish them strictly. The minister also questioned that leading political parties of the country use to make bigger public processions, but complaints of misbehaving with women were only reported from PTI processions.
Zahid Hamid said all those individuals have been included in the ToRs who accumulated money in foreign accounts through kickbacks, commissions, tax evasion and corrupt practices from politicians to business tycoons and others. “The government studied ToRs of the opposition today, but there is nothing in these ToRs that could be acknowledged and accepted,” said Zahid Hamid, adding that content of the ToRs hinted at the ill intentions of the opposition. While reading out some context of the ToRs of the opposition, he said that they have demanded for accountability of the prime minister; whereas, ICIJ has admitted that Nawaz Sharif has not been named directly in Panama Papers.
The law minister said the prevailing war of press conferences should come to an end and decision on this issue should be made by the Supreme Court. The minister said that ToRs presented by the opposition were aimed at creating controversies relating the prime minster instead of purging corruption from the country.
Responding to another query, the minister said that a history is being made in Pakistan when a sitting prime minister has presented himself for accountability.