ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in his address to the nation on Friday, said he will resign and go home if proven guilty by the Panama Papers probe.
"I challenge all those who allege tax fraud to come forward and present evidence. If charges are proved against me, I will resign immediately," vowed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The prime minister stated that a decision has been taken by him to write a letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, for the formation of a commission to probe the allegations levelled against his family and him.
We will accept the recommendations presented forth by the commission, added Nawaz.
"Once again certain elements are attempting to destabilise Pakistan in the wake of Panama Papers."
"Soon after the issue surfaced, I took the nation into confidence and ordered the formation of a judicial commission under the supervision of a retired supreme court judge," said the premier.
We have answered such allegations in the past and we will do it again, because we believe that as a democratic government and representatives of the people, it is our duty to answer these allegations, said Nawaz.
"The commission has not yet been established, but people have already passed judgments," stated the premier.
Nawaz added the incumbent government has always supported accountability, and has taken steps to make the taxpayers directory public on FBR’s website.
"When I was told that the details of assets of public representatives were removed from the election commission’s website, I took notice of the issue and asked Ishaq Dar to re-issue these details," elaborated the prime minister.
Nawaz reiterated that he is only answerable to the people of Pakistan, and not to politicians which indulge in point scoring.
He also requested the media to first confirm facts behind any allegations before bringing it to the public.
Commission's Terms of Reference
The federal government has written a formal letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan for setting up an inquiry commission.
The letter, written by the ministry of law, says the commission can probe the offshore accounts of Pakistani citizens, investigate current or former bureaucrats and would have the power to summon any individual.
The Commission of Inquiry shall have the following Terms of Reference:
To examine information relating to involvement of Pakistani citizens, persons of Pakistan origin and legal entities in off-shore companies in Panama or in any other country.
Involvement of former and present holders of public office in writing off their own bank loans or those of their immediate family members through political influence.
Transfer from Pakistan of funds which have originated from corruption, commissions or kickbacks, and to determine whether, in any case referred to above, any law for the time being in force in Pakistan has been infringed.
In case the answer to above is affirmative, to determine responsibility for such infringement, and to make such recommendations as may be deemed appropriate.
The Commission shall have powers under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 for summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person, including a tax expert or accountant, and examining him on oath, requiring the discovery and production of any documents, receiving evidence on affidavits, issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses on documents and requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any Court or office.
The Commission shall have the powers to require any person, subject to any privilege which may be claimed by that person under any law for the time being in force, to furnish information on such point or matters as, in the opinion of the Commission, may be useful for, or relevant to, the subject matter of the inquiry.
Any officer not below the rank of a gazetted officer, specially authorized in this behalf by the President of the Commission may enter any building or place where the Commission has reason to believe that any books of account or other documents relating to the subject matter of the inquiry may be found, and may seize any such books of account or documents or take extracts or copies therefrom subject to the provisions of section 102 and section 103 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, insofar as they may be applicable.
Any proceeding before the Commission shall be deemed to be a judicial proceeding within the meaning of sections 193 and 228 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860.
The Commission shall be assisted by all the concerned authorities of the Federal and Provincial Governments.
The Commission shall start the inquiry at a place and on a date to be fixed by it and shall submit its report to the Federal Government in accordance with its Terms of Reference.
The Cabinet Division shall provide secretarial assistance to the Commission.
PPP criticises the need for PM's address
PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira, addressing the media on Friday, said the PPP and other political parties will not let the matter of Panama Papers be forgotten.
"The government's method of dealing with any major issue is to let it play out, and once enough time passes and other important issues take precedence, the matter is forgotten," said Kaira.
He added that all political parties are in agreement and united on the issue of Panama Papers, and the government's tactic of diluting important issues will not work.
Yesterday, at a special sitting of senior members of the cabinet, advisers and party leaders, the prime minister expressed a desire to ‘settle this issue once and for all’, according to an aide who attended the meeting, Dawn newspaper reports.
In his April 6 address to the nation, the premier in an effort to calm the storm whipped up by the Panama Papers had announced that a judicial commission would investigate the offshore companies owned by members of his family.
A sombre-sounding prime minister said he had taken the decision because “fingers are being pointed at the business concerns of my sons”.
Since then, the PML-N government has come under increasing pressure to ensure a transparent investigation of the Panama allegations, especially after the Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif on Thursday dismissed at least six senior army officers on charges of corruption.
Meanwhile, Chief Justice Anwer Zaheer Jamali is scheduled to travel to Turkey tomorrow on a week-long visit to participate in the annual ceremony of the Turkish constitutional court.
Justice Saqib Nisar will perform duties as the Chief Justice in his absence.
Panama leaks revelations
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.