JI takes Panama Papers leaks scandal to SC

Updated Aug 25 2016


ISLAMABAD: Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Emir Sirajul Haq filed his party’s long-awaited petition on the Panama Papers leaks in the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

This is the first petition, seeking action on the revelations contained in the Panama Papers, moved by a major political party.

Appearing before the court to plead his case in person, Mr Haq sought directives for the government to initiate an inquiry or investigation into Panamagate, followed by trial proceedings against the culprits under the country’s laws.

The petition requested the apex court to order the five respondents — the federal government through the parliamentary affairs ministry, secretaries of law and justice, finance and cabinet division and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) — to arrest the culprits and bring the public money, which was illegally transferred to offshore companies, back to the country.

But Mr Haq evaded a direct question from a journalist, who asked why his petition did not mention Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif or any other political leader as respondent. He simply said he had submitted a complete list to the court.

Petition doesn’t name PM Sharif directly; PTI expected to file similar petition next week

He told reporters that the JI had come knocking at the Supreme Court’s door in a bid to represent public sentiment and anger against ongoing ‘economic terrorism’ in the country.

Advocate Asad Manzoor Butt will represent the JI chief before the apex court in the matter.

Apart from the JI, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan had also announced his intention to move a similar petition in order to build pressure on the ruling party’s leadership.

“We have decided, in principle, to file the petition in the Supreme Court on behalf of party chief Imran Khan sometime next week. In the meantime, the party will also try get a resolution passed from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly against Panamagate, as suggested by PTI legal wizard Hamid Khan,” senior party leader Ishaq Khakwani told Dawn.

In its petition, the Jamaat has contended that though Pakistan was making supreme sacrifices in the war against terrorism, government officials, office-bearers in legal entities and citizens were making investments in offshore companies through illegal and corrupt means.

Thus, huge sums of money had been laundered or illegally transferred and parked in certain offshore companies without the knowledge of the state, causing massive financial losses to the nation and the national exchequer.

The petition said that these investments in offshore companies, in fact, originated from public money through corrupt and illegal means.

It regretted that the respondents were trying to prolong the Panamagate controversy until the end of the current government’s tenure.

The petition said that a large number of public office holders had been making investments in offshore companies and concealing the facts in the statement of assets they submitted.

Therefore, the petition emphasised, all such holders of public office are liable to be disqualified from their offices and should be punished.

However, it claimed, due to negligence and inaction on the part of government agencies, the due process of accountability was not being carried out in a transparent manner and the prevailing accountability regime under NAB did not seem like across-the-board accountability.

Such a situation is alarming and unacceptable under Article 184(3), read with articles 4, 5, 9, 10-A and 25 (which deal with fundamental rights of citizens) of the Constitution, the petition maintained.

The illegal transfer of national wealth for investments in offshore companies should be declared an offence under Section 9 of the National Accountability Ordinance and the court should order trial of all those who made such investments through corrupt means by a commission of inquiry under the laws of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2016