ISLAMABAD: Terming the demand from other opposition parties for the prime minister’s resignation too early, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has called for setting up a parliamentary committee with “full powers to pursue investigations into Panama leaks.”

The PPP has also decided to form two committees — one to approach all other political parties to take them on board over its demand for the parliamentary probe and the other to advise the party leadership on the legal issues involved in carrying out investigations into the Panama leaks documents.

These decisions were made by the party during a meeting of its senior leaders which was presided over by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto at Zardari House here on Wednesday. Bilawal had arrived in the capital on Tuesday.

Briefing reporters about the decisions made by the party during the three-hour long meeting, PPP’s information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira said Bilawal had decided to set up a four-member committee comprising leaders of opposition and party’s parliamentary leaders in both the houses of the parliament to reach out to other political parties for devising a common strategy on the issue.

The committee comprises Syed Khurshid Shah, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, Saeed Ghani and Ijaz Jakhrani.

The four-member legal committee consists of Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, Farooq Naek, Nayyar Bokhari and Sardar Latif Khosa.

Terming the Panama leaks an important issue, Mr Kaira said the party would devise its strategy only after consultations with the other parliamentary parties.

Mr Kaira evaded direct questions if the PPP would participate in the long march to Raiwind as announced by PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

He said Chairman Bilawal had been apprised of the recent meeting between the PPP leaders with Shah Mehmood Qureshi of the PTI. He said it was a consultation only between the two parties whereas there were other parties which had representation in the parliament.

Meanwhile, PPP spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar told Dawn that the purpose of forming the political committee was to apprise the leaders of other parties about the idea and philosophy behind the party’s demand for setting up a parliamentary committee to hold investigations into the Panama leaks.

He said after refusal of the judges to head the inquiry commission as announced by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his address to the nation, the best option available to the political leadership was to hold investigations through the parliamentary committee with full powers, including the powers to call for investigations through international forensic experts.

Moreover, he said, the other benefit of holding investigations through a parliamentary body would be that it would have representation of all the political parties and, unlike a judicial commission its proceedings would be open for public.

About the legal committee, he said, that Bilawal still wanted to know legal implications and other issues which might arise during the course of investigations or after completion of the probe into the Panama leaks. He said the legal experts believed that setting up an offshore company was not an illegal act and that it was a common practice which was carried out by individuals all around the world in order to “avoid” taxes and not “evade” taxes.

Responding to a question, Mr Babar said the PPP had not demanded the prime minister’s resignation yet, saying that such a demand without a full-fledged inquiry seemed unjustified.

Sources in the party said that former Senate chairman Farooq Naek gave a detailed presentation to the party chairman and members on the legal aspects of setting up and functioning of off-shore companies.

The sources said the announcement by the PTI to hold a long march towards the Sharifs’ residence in Raiwind also came under discussion in the meeting. However, they said, majority of the PPP leaders was of the opinion that the party should not go along with the PTI in this march keeping in view its past track record.

A handout issued by the PPP Media Centre after the meeting quoted Bilawal Bhutto as saying during the meeting that he was deeply perturbed that the government despite its promise had failed to initiate process of meaningful investigations and now there were reports that the judges might not be willing to work as members of inquiry commission.

Those present in the meeting included former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, Khurshid Shah, Farooq Naek, Aitzaz Ahsan, Nayyar Bokhari, Latif Khosa, Sherry Rehman, Naveed Qamar, Jehangir Badar, Faryal Talpur, Faisal Karim Kundi, Saleem Mandviwala, Rehman Malik, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Ijaz Jakhrani and Farhatullah Babar.

REORGANISATION: Mr Kaira told the reporters that all party organisations down to the district level in all the provinces and South Punjab had been dissolved.

He said five-member organising committees would soon be constituted in each province to recommend to the chairman PPP on the reorganisation issues of the party within three months and to run day to day affairs.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2016

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