The Supreme Court on Thursday sent notices to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the federal government seeking reports on action taken against 436 Pakistanis named in the Panama Papers.
The Panama Papers, a massive investigation into secretive offshore companies owned by the world’s political and business elite, sparked controversy in several countries last year. At home, their publication had led to the disqualification of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
On Thursday, a two-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal, conducted a hearing on petitions filed by Jamaat-i-Islami chief Senator Sirajul Haq and Advocate Tariq Asad, which seek action against all those named in the Panama Papers. The petitions were clubbed together by the apex court today.
During the hearing, Advocate Asad told the court that indiscriminate action should be taken against those who had "engaged in corrupt practices and set up off-shore companies in Panama."
It should be pointed out here that the setting up of off-shore companies is, in itself, not a criminal act and has many legitimate uses.
However: "These companies are established for tax-evasion purposes," the lawyer alleged. "Action should be taken against those who engaged in money-laundering."
The advocate requested the court list the Interior Ministry, the government and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan as respondents in the case.
"Does your case seek action against those who own assets beyond their known sources of income?" Justice Afzal asked the advocate.
"It is NAB which is responsible for undertaking investigations into assets beyond known sources of income. It is not up to the SC to determine if individuals' assets exceed their income," the judge reminded the petitioner.
"I served on the bench that heard the Panama Papers case. We will hear this case," Justice Afzal added. "Corruption is found in every state institution and steps need to be taken to against it," he added.
The hearing was adjourned indefinitely.