Sharif family must be proven guilty or not within three months, says opposition
PanamaLeaks Opposition releases unanimously-agreed ToRs; inquiry should start from the PM and his family; no consensus on PM’s resignation; inquiry be made public once the commission is done with investigation; inquiry against others mentioned in Leaks be completed within one year; no mention of those who got loans written off
ISLAMABAD: The joint opposition on Tuesday unanimously approved the terms of reference (ToRs) for the constitution of a judicial commission under the Chief Justice of Pakistan to first examine the offshore assets of the prime minister and his family with the help of an international audit firm within three months — extendable by one month — and complete inquiries against others mentioned in the PanamaLeaks within one year.
However, the opposition fell short of seeking the prime minister’s resignation in its ToRs due to resistance by the ANP and QWP though the PPP, PTI, PML-Q, AML, JI and MQM were unanimous on seeking the resignation.
The ToRs, which focused mainly on the prime minister and his family, didn’t mention those who had got their loans written off.The ToRs also envisaged passage of a special law titled “the Panama Papers (Inquiry and Trial) Act, 2016” by consensus to facilitate investigation into the assets, foreign and domestic, of the prime minister and other Pakistanis named in the Leaks.
Unveiling the ToRs in his talk with the media, Opposition Leader in the Senate Senator Aitzaz Ahsan said accountability should begin from the prime minister and his family and the prime minister’s foreign assets should be investigated.
“The inquiry should be made public and accountability of all others named in the Panama Papers should be conducted once the commission is done with investigation against the prime minister,” Aitzaz said.
He said there was neither a consensus nor disagreement on the demand for the prime minister’s resignation but it was agreed that the inquiry should start from the prime minister and his family.Responding to a question, Aitzaz admitted that there weredifferences among the opposition parties over the resignation of prime minister before the inquiry.
PTI leader Hamid Khan, however, reiterated his party’s demand for the prime minister’s resignation. PPP Information Secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira said all the opposition parties in principle backed demands for the prime minister’s resignation, but there was disagreement on its timing.
According to the ToRs, the commission will carry out full scrutiny of the prime minister and his family’s assets, taxes, source of money and other related matters.The ToRs said the Panama Commission Trial and Inquiry Act shall be promulgated under which a judicial commission, headed by the chief justice of Pakistan, should be set up to hold an inquiry.
The ToRs say the commission would also be empowered to inquire into the questions arising out of disclosures from the Panama Papers like what properties are held beneficially, benami or otherwise bought and sold by the respondent and his family members during the 1985-2016 period.
The commission could also probe whether the prime minister or his family during their stay abroad from December 2000 onwards were state guests on behalf of Pakistan and whether any property, gifts or amounts received by them belonged to the State of Pakistan and were liable to be deposited with the state exchequer.
The following is the text of ToRs released by the opposition:
WHEREAS the disclosures termed PANAMA PAPERS have revealed that the family members of the Prime Minister of Pakistan Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, along with several other Pakistani nationals, have been maintaining offshore bank accounts and interests in offshore companies, investments and properties and other assets outside Pakistan, which they have not declared to any official authority in Pakistan;
AND WHEREAS such accounts, properties, assets, companies and investments appear to have been opened, incorporated, registered, made and/or acquired through undeclared sources, funds and means and, prima facie, to evade tax as well as scrutiny, accountability and liability under the Pakistani law;
AND WHEREAS repeated public explanations and statements of the PM and members of his family have been manifestly contradictory inter se, and have raised more doubts and questions than they have answered;
And WHEREAS the Panama Papers revelations have brought Pakistan into disrepute globally by naming the prime minister’s family and other Pakistani nationals and have raised questions about the legality and propriety of their assets held abroad and in offshore companies;
AND WHEREAS it is necessary for the efficient and transparent functioning of the government and the restoration of the image, honor and prestige of the country that all shadows of doubt be removed from the names of the PM, his family and other Pakistani nationals;
And WHEREAS the prime minister as the head of the executive has all the state investigative agencies under his control and hence the need for an independent commission for across-the-board accountability;
a. Act shall mean the Panama Papers (Inquiry and Trial) Act
b. Commission shall means the Commission appointed under the Act
c. Prime Minister shall refer to Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif.
d. Family members shall mean and parents, spouse(s), sons and daughters and grandchildren
e. The respondent shall mean a Pakistani named in Panama Papers including the prime minister
2. The commission shall inquire into the following questions arising out of the disclosures from PANAMA papers:
(i) What properties are held beneficially, benami or otherwise bought and sold by the respondent and his family members during the period 1985 to 2016?
(ii) What sources of income were available to the respondent and his family during this period?
(iii) What are bank accounts where these funds kept in?
(iiii) Were the respondent and his family members not required to pay Income Tax in Pakistan for such incomes?
(v) On which date and through which banks were the funds utilized in the purchase of properties abroad?
(vi) Lifting the veil of incorporation, who was the person(s) from whom the aforesaid properties were purchased?
(vii) It shall further be probed as to when the properties were purchased by the seller and with similar disclosure of bank and income tax statements of the seller.
(viii) Where a respondent himself admits to ownership of any properties abroad, what other properties, assets or interests did the respondent or members of his family acquire by payments made from bank accounts from which the disclosed properties were purchased by the respondent?
(ix) Do the accretion and acquisition of assets commensurate with the Income Tax paid year wise by the respondent and his family since 1985?
(x) Whether opening, maintaining and operating offshore accounts by or on behalf of respondent and members of his family or being beneficiaries of such accounts could be regarded as legal or proper for him and/or his family?
(xi) Whether the respondent and his family are required to disclose money trail/transfer of funds into their offshore accounts and money trail/transfer of funds out of such accounts for purchase of properties or other investments in foreign countries?
(xii) Whether the prime minister or his family during their stay abroad from December 2000 onwards was state guests on behalf of Pakistan?
(xiii) Whether any property, gifts or amounts received by them during that belonged to the State of Pakistan and were liable to be deposited in the State Exchequer?
(xiv) Whether a respondent by concealing the ownership and source of income through which the properties were procured, and concealing them in the nomination papers during the previous elections or before relevant tax authorities, has committed corrupt and illegal practices under the election/tax laws?
(xv) Whether all transfer of funds, purchase of assets and all other investments and transactions can be chronologically reconciled by the respondent or his family?
3. A Special Law titled “PANAMA PAPERS (INQUIRY AND TRIAL) ACT, 2016” be passed to facilitate investigation into the assets, foreign and domestic, of the prime minister and all other Pakistanis named in the Panama Papers, which shall be formulated with the consensus of the opposition and shall contain provisions for:
a. A special commission headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan and comprising two other judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to be nominated by the Chief Justice.
b. The commission may appoint a committee of experts (hereinafter referred to as the “Committee”) in international forensic audit to carry out an exhaustive investigation and audit into the offshore companies and their accounts owned by the respondent and his family including all transactions, sales and purchases of all assets, moveable and immoveable, including stocks, shares, debentures and equitable or benami interests, opening and operation of all bank accounts, including offshore bank accounts and incorporation of all companies including offshore companies whether directly or behind corporate veil(s) wherever in the world they may be.
c. It shall be the critical duty of the committee to verify the money trail, which provided funds for such offshore companies and the consequential payments out of such funds for investments and other financial transactions.
d. The commission shall direct the respondent to give a mandatory authorization by an irrevocable general power of attorney empowering the committee and/or its designated members, to lift all corporate veils, access all bank accounts, offshore companies and accounts, stock exchange accounts, corporate registers including registers of shareholders and directors, land and estate records (by whatever name or nomenclature called in any given jurisdiction), and the facilitation of the Committee/Member by the Respondent by any other means that may be required by any foreign jurisdiction, governments, authorities or officials concerned and such facilitation may include the signing of any documents, forms, applications, requests or authorizations required;
e. The Act shall provide for an irrebuttable presumption of guilt in the event the respondent refuses or fails to give the authorization or extend the facilitation referred to in clause (d) above;
f. A presumption, [in line with the Prevention of Corruption Act 1947, the Ehtesab Act 1997 and the NAB Ordinance 1999], that once ownership of the respondent or his family of an asset or interest is proved, or admitted, (whether as banamidar, beneficiary or trustee or in any other capacity), the burden of proving that it was lawfully acquired through legitimate sources, funds, and a lawful mode, shall be on the respondent;
g. In case a respondent and his family omit to extend fullest cooperation to the committee or if they are unable to rebut the presumption that the assets were not acquired through legitimate sources, funds and means, the commission shall direct them to forthwith liquidate and bring those assets and funds to Pakistan where the state shall forfeit them.
h. Before the commission enters upon any inquiry, the respondents (starting with the Prime Minister his Family as volunteered by himself) shall place all and complete information of all their worldwide moveable and immoveable assets and interests in properties, benami, beneficial, offshore or otherwise held at any time since 1985 along with full details of the Income
I. All respondents including the prime minister and his family shall present themselves before the commission for examination and cross-examination by any person committed by the commission
J. The commission shall have all the powers of court under the Constitution, CPC, CR.PC and the Supreme Court rules
k. A respondent held responsible by the commission for any illegal act or conduct shall be prosecuted and punished in accordance with law by a court of competent jurisdiction.
l. Each report of the commission shall be published by the Federal Government within one week of its submission provided that the report concerning the prime minister and his family shall be completed in the first instance.
4. All proceedings before the commission shall be open to the public
5. The powers and procedure of the commission shall be as under
(i) The Government of Pakistan, the Provincial Governments and all Governmental agencies other organizations like NAB, FIA, IB, SBP and SECP shall extend all cooperation and assistance necessary for the investigation to the Commission and shall comply with its directions.
(ii) The Government of Pakistan shall be obliged by law to fully assist the investigation by extending all necessary financial, legal, diplomatic support including obtaining cooperation from various international agencies for the conduct of investigation.
(iii) The Government of Pakistan shall be responsible for creating appropriate infrastructure and other facilities and for making required funds available to the Commission to complete its task.
(iv) The government may constitute an international joint investigation team or teams and seek international cooperation from foreign countries/ agencies to provide information, documents evidence and record from abroad or otherwise request for cooperation and assistance in the investigation or issue letters and interrogatories in accordance with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), the World Stolen Assets Recovery Initiative and Mutual Legal Assistance Requests.
(v) The procedure of the inquiry shall be fully inquisitorial in character.
(vi) The burden of proof in all matters shall be entirely on the respondents and his family to prove their innocence.
(vii) The time period for completion of inquiry in connection to the prime minister and his family shall be three months extendable by one month for reasons to be recorded by Commission, from the date of commencement of the inquiries. Inquiries in respect of other respondents shall be concluded within 12 months.