SC says single-member commission to probe Panama leaks after reviewing all replies

Published November 3, 2016
Security is beefed up outside Supreme Court as opposition leaders arrive to attend a hearing regarding Panama Leaks scandal. —AP
Security is beefed up outside Supreme Court as opposition leaders arrive to attend a hearing regarding Panama Leaks scandal. —AP

A five-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) hearing the Panamagate petitions on Thursday decided that a single-member commission will be formed to probe revelations made in the Panama Papers after reviewing all replies.

The Panamagate commission will be headed by an apex court judge. The individual will hold powers equivalent to the apex court.

The SC in its court order said it is competent to hear the petitions as they fall under public importance and fundamental rights.

On Tuesday, the National Accountability Bureau told the five-judge SC bench that it is beyond the scope of the body to probe the Panama leaks.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had said during the hearing, "What we have gathered from your reply is that you have decided not to do anything... We have your message loud and clear that no authority wants to take action in this matter, and now, we will attend to it."

Earlier this week, the SC ordered the government and opposition parties to submit their Terms of Reference (ToRs) on the formation of a commission to probe the Panama leaks. The order came just a day before the PTI's planned Nov 2 'lockdown' of Islamabad.

Only the Awami Muslim League submitted its proposed ToRs during today's hearing. The court directed all parties to submit their ToRs by today.

The PTI submitted its own ToRs on the Panamagate commission later on in the day.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali said, however, that the court was not bound to accept the ToRs of any party. He added that the court would not drag proceedings of the case.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's counsel Salman Ahmed Butt submitted the premier's response in court today, along with that of Captain Safdar.

In his reply, the PM denied holding any offshore companies and maintained that he is a regular taxpayer. He said that he had declared all his assets in 2013, so he was not liable for disqualification under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif added that none of his children are dependent on him.

The PM's children, Maryam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz, did not submit their responses.

When the PM's counsel was asked why his family members did not submit their responses, the lawyer said they were out of the country. The court expressed its displeasure and asked for submission of responses by Monday so the case can proceed.

A final decision on the formation of the single-member commission will be made on Monday after the apex court reviews the ToRs and responses submitted by the premier's children.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in his written reply denied allegations levelled against him by the petitioners, saying that the allegations were based on statements recorded forcefully from him during the tenure of former president Pervez Musharraf.

“The Lahore High Court (LHC) had already declared the said statement unacceptable,” he said, adding that a competent court had already decided on the allegations hurled against him.

He denied association with any offshore company and said he had not concealed any assets.

PTI's ToRs

The PTI's ToRs include questions pertaining to assets and properties held by the Sharif Family, including flats in London’s Park Lane.

The party seeks an inquiry into the family's alleged offshore companies, including Nescoll Ltd and Nielsen Enterprises in the British Virgin Islands.

The ToRs question the sources of funds used to purchase properties and companies and whether accounts in foreign countries were involved in the transactions.

The PTI also raised questions over whether money acquired from companies sold was subsequently gifted by PM Nawaz to his children, and demanded an inquiry into when ownership of London properties was transferred to Maryam Nawaz.



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