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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday highlighted the need for adopting a holistic approach to end corruption once for all and issued notices to the government and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) with the observation that corruption had permeated in every department of the state.

“Initiation of proceedings against one or two won’t get solution and ... something has to be done holistically so that this hydra monster of corruption is doomed and dumped once for all,” observed Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan while dictating an order after hearing identical petitions moved by the Jamaat-i-Islami and Advocate Tariq Asad seeking a directive for action against those individuals who have stashed fortunes in offshore companies.

The observation came after Mr Asad said he was the one to approach the apex court first with his petition and to seek appointment of a commission under a Supreme Court judge for a thorough probe into the Panama Papers leaks, but the court chose to hear first the petitions of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan and others.

Justice Ejaz Afzal — who was also in the five-judge bench that handed down the disqualification verdict against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif — reminded Mr Asad that the two petitions being heard by the court were delinked with their consent, adding that the court did not shrug off its responsibility.

Notices issued to govt, NAB on petitions seeking action against investment in offshore companies through illegal ways

Mr Asad recalled that he had named Imran Khan as a respondent when he filed his petition in view of the dharna (sit-in) and threats to lock down Islamabad, but now when the case was being heard “we have again become the victim of another dharna”. He was alluding to the ongoing sit-in at Islamabad’s Faizabad interchange.

The petitioner said he believed that anybody involved in corruption by evading taxes though investment in offshore companies should be dealt with in accordance with the law.

Meanwhile, the petition filed by Jamaat-i-Islami through its chief Siarajul Haq has requested the apex court to order the five respondents — the federal government through the parliamentary affairs ministry, the secretaries of law and justice, finance and cabinet division and NAB — to arrest all those “culprits who have invested stolen money in offshore companies” and bring public money, which was illegally transferred to offshore companies, back to the country.

The JI contends that though Pakistan is making supreme sacrifices in the war against terrorism, government officials, office-bearers in legal entities and citizens are making investments in offshore companies through illegal and corrupt means.

Thus, huge sums of money have 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 argues that these investments in offshore companies originate from public money through corrupt and illegal means.

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

The petition says that a large number of public office-holders have been making investments in offshore companies and concealing the facts in their statement of assets.

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

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

The illegal transfer of national wealth for investment 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 people, who have made such investments through corrupt means, by an inquiry commission.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2017