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Ready for talks, govt rejects opposition ToR

Updated Apr 19, 2017 07:55pm


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ISLAMABAD: Rejecting the opposition’s draft of the terms of reference (ToR) for an inquiry commission on the Panama Papers allegations, the government indicated on Wednesday that it was willing to sit with the opposition to come up with terms of reference that were focused on eliminating corruption and did not target the prime minister personally.

Speaking at a press conference following a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that despite their reservations, a committee had been formed to engage the opposition over the terms of reference.

Accompanied by Law Minister Zahid Hamid and Barrister Zafarullah Khan, the PM’s adviser on law, the interior minister said the opposition’s terms of reference seemed to be an anti-Nawaz manifesto, meant to tarnish the image of the prime minister and his family in order to cripple the government.

“The opposition wants the prime minister in the dock, without touching other politicians whose children also run offshore companies,” he said, alleging that the opposition was not serious about holding an inquiry and only wanted to achieve their political goals by simply levelling allegations.

He claimed that Nawaz Sharif was the first head of the government in the world who reacted to the Panama Papers leaks by addressing the nation and announcing the decision to form a judicial commission. Some senior party members, he said, thought there was no need for such an address, but PM Sharif had, in the interests of transparency, decided to form a commission.

Opposition parties welcome govt offer; PTI insists PM can’t make ToR for inquiry against himself

He criticised the opposition for their never-ending demands and for backing out of each demand after the government accepted it. This was what happened when he offered them the services of the FIA, or suggested the formation of a parliamentary committee to investigate the matter.

He observed that the Supreme Court had unlimited powers and could even go beyond the terms of reference in its inquiry. He asked the opposition to not try to dictate terms to the apex court, and contended that the government could not influence it.

Rejecting the opposition’s criticism of the government-framed terms of reference, Law Minister Zahid Hamid pointed out that the terms of reference for any inquiry commission formed since 1956 had been developed by the government.

He said the terms of reference proposed by the government covered registered offshore companies in Panama and other countries and loans written off under political influence, but the opposition proposed to restrict the scope of the inquiry only to Panama and wanted to omit the written-off loans. He said the opposition also proposed to restrict the scope of investigations to Pakistani citizens alone.

He also said the preamble of the opposition’s terms of reference equated an accusation with a crime, negating all cardinal principles of justice.

Opposition reaction

Expressing his surprise over the government’s response, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah said there was no justification for the government to unilaterally reject the terms of reference drawn up by the opposition.

“Sometimes, moral values are stricter than legal requirements. It is the need of the hour that the prime minister present himself for accountability,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

But, at the same time, he welcomed the government’s offer for talks with the opposition, saying that PM Sharif was a “wise man” and there were “wise people” in his team, who would prefer to take steps to resolve the prevailing crisis.

Mr Shah also said the opposition parties would formally send their draft of the terms of reference to the government, adding that he also planned to write to the prime minister in a day or two.

When asked about criticism of the opposition’s terms of reference, Mr Shah reminded reporters that the role and powers of the inquiry commission on pre-poll rigging had also been prepared following consultations between the government and the opposition.

“If it could be done then, why can’t it happen now?”

In a statement issued after the interior minister’s press conference, PTI spokesperson Naeemul Haq accused him of “speaking for the prime minister and his family”, not the law of the land.

He also questioned how the prime minister, who stood accused of plundering the national exchequer, could be expected to come up with the terms of reference of a commission to investigate his own wrongdoings.

“In order for things to move ahead, talks must be held,” he told Dawn separately. He reasoned that since it was not possible for the opposition to approach the chief justice directly, they would have to sit down with the government at some stage and said that a meeting over the terms of reference could not be ruled out.

PML-Q Secretary General Mushahid Hussain Sayed welcomed the government’s readiness to engage in dialogue with the opposition over the terms of reference. “It is a good sign that the government intends to engage the opposition; dialogue is the essence of democracy,” he said.

Senator Sayed was of the view that the government and the opposition should sit together to jointly draft terms of reference for the commission. When asked about the government’s point of view, that the prime minister was the opposition’s main target, he said that the war of words would continue, but the government’s openness for dialogue was something positive.

Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2016


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Comments (25) Closed

Nadeem May 05, 2016 06:39am

Not sure why this is being complicated. Very simple: Sharif family has accepted they own offshore companies. What's there to investigate? Why not ask simple question on what the money trail is?

Israr Khan IsmailZai May 05, 2016 07:05am

PTI is the only party that is genuinely against corruption, rest of these parties are just Topi drama. One thief can't catch another thief simple is that.

omair May 05, 2016 07:32am

nice going govt. some sensible ppl in the party know their way around. All I see is instead of just rejecting the proposed ToR, they are talking about dialogue as well. could have done that earlier. you know what it is. Delay-delay till you can. then het on the wrong foot with each other. Then banter. Then again dialogue by middle man Diesel. Then talk talk, then realize no project in country is worth while, let's confront each other and blame opposition.

Smart Minds!!

Pakistani May 05, 2016 07:53am

Zardari Nawaz friendship is the best

Shaukat Ali Khan May 05, 2016 08:15am

TORs are set by the government. Opposition must wait for its turn.

Shaukat Ali Khan May 05, 2016 08:18am

PTI should first clear itself and its accounts.

Shaukat Ali Khan May 05, 2016 08:17am

@Israr Khan IsmailZai

Why is PTI then playing with the Ehtisaab law in KPK?

Farrukh Arshad May 05, 2016 09:10am

Nothing will happen and these people will somehow again win the election and join the government for more corruption.

nuzhat shireen May 05, 2016 09:34am

IK should come on roads against corruption without help of other parties .

Saeed Ahmed May 05, 2016 09:39am

So another committee to discuss the TOR. Once agreed, another committee to start the probe. How many more layers are there between now and the verdict?

MIAN SHOAIB May 05, 2016 10:00am

@Israr Khan IsmailZai , PTI is against Corruption? J.Tareen said his sons also have off shore companies. Why his name was not in proposed TOR? Sitting with PPP? what is that? now PPP is all pak-saaf

Imran May 05, 2016 12:08pm

@Farrukh Arshad that is why its called democracy. Not the wishes of an elite but will of the people.

keroj May 05, 2016 12:25pm

easily said then done.. like the judicial commission would really investigate the case seriously -.-

PHILOSOPHER (FROM JAPAN) May 05, 2016 12:43pm

@Israr Khan IsmailZai When you people will come out of denial? they all are same be it PTI, PPP or PMLN. Did you remember PTI stand shoulders with PPP and PMLN in recent LG elections in Hyderabad and Karachi. JKT and Aleem Khan's names are also in Panama papers what else proof you people need to open your eyes?

Strange May 05, 2016 01:34pm

Now a group of people will start comments which will be confusing people again. Saying opposition is corrupt and so on. It is very simple.... As a government you should apprehend any corruption. You cannot call other people corrupt and don't take action against them. The only reason you do that to just blackmail and hide your wrong doings.

Khalid May 05, 2016 01:50pm

It looks like everyone in the cabinet has been working very hard on Panama papers. I wonder who is running the Pakistani government?.

Taimoor Khan May 05, 2016 02:17pm

Both government and opposition are trying their best to waste time with this circus. Both are neck deep in corruption. Its about time "someone" step up and start the ruthless accountability across the board.

Umar Khan May 05, 2016 02:34pm

Let's get this clear anyone can form offshore companies , lot of our elite ruling class own them . Thanks to a whistleblower the information is in public domain.The intriguing thing is that a very simple question is being ignored by the nawaz family where did the money come from,answer that and all will become clear

Pakistani May 05, 2016 04:47pm

Proud to be from a corrupt nation , why feel bad when West say so?

Shaukat Ali Khan May 05, 2016 05:01pm

No corrupt be allowed to run away including those involved in loan write offs.

Shaukat Ali Khan May 05, 2016 05:02pm

Every one wants other's accountability first. Let it begin please. Everyone's turn will come.

Israel Khan IsmailZai May 05, 2016 05:36pm

@Shaukat Ali Khan

Take them to court it's your govt. I am sick and tired of N leagues that blame pti people but don't take action against them. And if u find something, plz share it with us.

Israel Khan IsmailZai May 05, 2016 05:39pm


It's your govt catch him and put him in jail and anyone else that is corrupt, but don't try to justify NS's corruption by these kind of cheap excuses.

Tariq Mahmood May 05, 2016 06:48pm

Only in Pakistan can this happen and culprits caught red handed, let go scot free.

Naeem May 05, 2016 10:02pm

NS cannot escape answering where he got all the billions while paying almost no taxes. What is so complicated about this and why is NS government not agreeing to TOR proposed by the opposition.

Those with moral values like the PM of Iceland have resigned.