ISLAMABAD: Rejecting the inquiry commission proposed by the government, leaders from the Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid on Monday demanded that the terms of reference (ToRs) of any such commission should be drafted in consultation with the opposition.
Separately, the PPP announced a four-member legal team for the Panama Papers case, which the party claimed had already begun to collect evidence against the Sharif family.
PPP leaders began their week with a busy day, meeting leaders from the three other mainstream opposition parties in parliament. In separate meetings, the opposition leader demanded that the Panama commission be formed under a special law or ordinance, not under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1956, so that a powerful commission could investigate the matter.
The parties have agreed to reconvene on May 2 at PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan’s residence in Islamabad to chalk out a future strategy.
PTI, PPP, MQM and PML-Q demand consensus before commission; PPP legal team begins homework against Sharifs
The PTI, which has already announced a countrywide drive against corruption, demanded that the probe should begin with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family and then be extended to other Pakistanis named in the Panama Papers.
The government has already finalised the commission’s ToRs and insists that the government has done what was asked of it.
Monday’s politicking began with a meeting between Opposition Leader Syed Khursheed Shah and PTI Deputy Parliamentary Leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi, while PPP teams later met MQM and PML-Q leaders as well.
During his meeting with the PTI leader, Mr Shah rejected the proposed ToRs, saying that it would take at least a century to complete the Panama leaks probe under the ToRs the government had prepared.
He said his party had demanded a forensic audit, adding, “None of the opposition parties have accepted the ToRs. Now let us see how the chief justice responds.”
His counterpart in the Senate, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, said after a meeting with an MQM delegation led by Dr Farooq Sattar that the modus operandi of the commission should have been formulated in consultation with the opposition.
He said that since the issue concerned the setting up of companies outside the country, therefore the assistance of forensic auditors should be enlisted, adding that “otherwise, there would be no accountability of anyone”.
Referring to an earlier inquiry commission, formed to investigate rigging in the 2013 general elections under former chief justice Nasirul Mulk, Mr Ahsan said that commission was formed in consultation with the opposition. “Unfortunately, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has personally made the ToRs of the commission that will carry out his accountability,” he added.
Saying that any inquiry conducted under the “toothless” Commission of Inquiry Act, 1965, would be useless, the veteran lawyer recalled that there had been no implementation on the hundred of inquiries already conducted under the act in the past.
PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi also agreed to take part in the opposition parties’ meeting on May 2, saying, “the opposition has categorically rejected the government’s ToRs, so if they are serious about carrying out a transparent probe, they should also involve the opposition in the formation of ToRs,” he said.
He said that there was no point of having an investigation into the offshore companies without a forensic audit by an international firm.
Later, speaking at a joint press conference with PPP leaders, MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar urged the prime minister to take the opposition on board before taking a decision over the Panama leaks controversy. “If the government opts for a solo flight, it will further create problems and destabilise the state,” he said.
He suggested the prime minister initiate a national consultation on the Panama Papers issue and evolve a consensus over the ToRs for the proposed commission.
PPP members then met PML-Q leaders at the residence of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.
PML-Q’s Mushahid Hussain told Dawn his party would attend the meeting of opposition parties, adding that his party also wanted the ToRs of the commission to be drafted in consultation with the opposition.
NASIR IQBAL ADDS: Talking to reporters at the Supreme Court on Monday, PPP leader Sardar Latif Khosa announced that a legal team — including himself, Aitzaz Ahsan, Farooq H. Naek and Nayyar Hussain Bokhari — had already begun collecting evidence against the first family.
“Even though we reject the ToRs announced by the government, after thorough discussions, the party has formed a four-man legal team which is accumulating evidence against the prime minister,” Mr Khosa said.
He told reporters that the team had already gotten its hands on the 45-page statement, supposedly containing Ishaq Dar’s judicial confession before a district court from the year 2000.
In the statement, Mr Khosa alleged, the minister had spilled the beans on how the Hudaibiya Paper Mills was established, how the Raiwind Estate was developed and how the flats on London’s Park Lane were purchased, in addition to admissions about benami accounts.
The legal team is also collecting the declarations of assets and properties made by the prime minister, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, Capt Mohammad Safdar, and the prime minister’s sons.
Nayyar Bokhari has also been tasked to ask the National Assembly Secretariat to provide whatever declaration of assets any members of the Sharif family may have submitted, Mr Khosa said.
Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2016