The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked both the Pakistan Muslim League and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf to submit their Terms of Reference (ToRs) on the formation of a commission to probe the Panama Papers leaks.
The top court made this decision before adjourning the hearing of the Panamagate case that calls to investigate the prime minister and his close family members over alleged investments in offshore companies.
According to PTI counsel, the court said that in the event that both parties do not form a consensus on ToRs, the court itself will decide the terms.
"The commission will report to the Supreme Court," the court said, adjourning the hearing to November 3. It said that the commission will hold powers equal to the Supreme Court.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali asked both parties to "show restraint".
"We have to save the country from unrest and crises," Justice Jamali said, adding that the Panama Papers issue has affected the entire country.
Justice Asif Saeed Khosa added that the apex court is the supreme forum to resolve conflicts.
A five-judge apex court bench comprising Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Amir Hani Muslim, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Hassan heard the case just a day ahead of Islamabad's anticipated lockdown by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
The apex court had earlier directed both the government and PTI to submit their comments after consulting with their respective leaderships on the formation of a commission and suspended the hearing for two hours. It had said the court will decide who will chair the commission and who its members will be.
Petitions in relation to the leaks were first moved by Advocate Tariq Asad, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq, PTI chief Imran Khan and Awami Muslim League (AML) head Sheikh Rashid Ahmed asking for the appointment of a judicial commission to investigate the investment made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and members of his family in an offshore investment company called Mossack Fonseca.
PML-N, PTI agree on commission
Both the PML-N and the protesting PTI took up the Supreme Court's offer to form a judicial commission.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, PTI's counsel Hamid Khan said, "There is agreement on the commission."
"We have said the commission will investigate Panamagate and give its findings," he said, adding that the court told both parties to present ToRst. "If there is no consensus, court will decide ToRs itself," the lawyer said.
"The PM had on April 4 had said he presents himself and his family for accountability. But he wasted seven months."
PML-N lawyer Aslam Butt also informed the court that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif agreed to the formation of a judicial commission.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing was adjourned, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said, "Now the judiciary has taken up the matter, there is no logic in agitation on the streets."
"Both the accused and accuser are standing before court so I think the nation should be given relief from the agony of this protest."
He urged the PTI do pause the politics of sit-ins and added that the government has "complete faith in the judiciary".
Railways Minister Saad Rafique addressing Imran Khan said, "Do us a favour and don't put your workers in testing times."
"Now that the Supreme Court has made a decision and a consensus has been reached, the November 2 protest should end."
Judges have assessed the pain of the public: Sheikh Rashid
AML leader Sheikh Rashid speaking to reporters said, "I think the court has felt the pain of the nation. They have told all parties to take the nation out of this hardship."
Earlier he had said his party wants "to get a decision from this five-judge bench" instead of having a commission investigate the Panama leaks.
Background to Panamagate case
In May this year, CJP Jamali had declined the government's request to form what he then called a “toothless” judicial commission to probe revelations that surfaced in the Panama data leaks.
Justice Jamali had rejected the commission saying the scope of the government's proposed commission was too limited, the ToRs were too wide and had said it may take years to conclude proceedings.
The Supreme Court in May had also asked the government to “reconsider and resolve the issue of formation of the commission under proper legislation” after which it would decide on the modalities of the inquiry commission.
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.