ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Anwar Zaheer Jamali on Friday declined the government's request to form a “toothless” judicial commission to probe revelations that have surfaced in the Panama data leaks.

The government had last month sent a letter to the Supreme Court registrar, requesting that the chief justice constitute a high-level judicial commission to investigate the veracity of the allegations against the premier and his family.

In response to the government's request, a letter issued by the SC registrar says:

Key points from SC reply to govt

• Scope of proposed commission too limited
• List all individuals, companies to be probed
• ToRs too wide, open-ended
• May take years to conclude proceedings
• Reconsider legislation to empower commission

“The formation of a commission under the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act 1956 (Act VI of 1956), looking to its limited scope will result in the constitution of a toothless commission, which will serve no useful purpose.”

The letter observes that the terms of reference (ToR) of the proposed commission are so “wide and open” that “it may take years” for the commission to conclude proceedings.

The letter also says that “before forming an opinion as to the formation of the inquiry commission, it is necessary to have the list of all individuals, families, groups, companies... along with some relevant particulars, against whom purported inquiry proceedings are to be held...”

The Supreme Court has also asked the government to “reconsider and resolve the issue of formation of the commission under proper legislation” after which it will decide on the modalities of the inquiry commission.

Terms of Reference

Formally withdrawing their demand for the prime minister’s resignation in light of the Panama leaks, nine opposition parties came to an agreement last week upon a draft of the terms of reference (ToR) for the judicial commission to investigate the allegations thrown up by the Panama Papers leaks.

Opposition parties want a three-member judicial commission headed by the CJP set up through an act of parliament, which should first hold an inquiry against the PM and his family members. The commission will be given three months, extendable to four, to complete the task.

Only then, according to the opposition-drafted ToR, can it start proceedings against other Pakistanis named in the Panama Papers and will have a year to complete this task.

Earlier, the government rejected the draft of the ToR, indicating 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.

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, 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.

Since the data leak, PM Nawaz has been under immense pressure at the hands of the opposition to ensure a transparent inquiry is held to justify his children's offshore companies.