ISLAMABAD: Nearly eight years after the revelations contained in the Panama Papers sent shock waves through Pakistan’s politics, the matter is in the headlines again.
The Supreme Court is expected to take up on June 9 a Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) petition seeking directions against 436 individuals, who had allegedly stashed fortunes in offshore companies.
Justice Sardar Tariq Masood will head the two-judge bench, of which Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan is the other member.
It may be recalled that a final decision in the Panama Papers leak case is already in the field.
On Nov 3, 2017, JI through an application reminded the court of its pending petition filed by party emir Sirajul Haq in August 2016.
However, a five-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, which was hearing petitions against then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members for making investments in offshore companies, segregated this case since the grounds made in it were too wide.
In 2016 petition, Sirajul Haq had urged court to disqualify all those who stole public funds, parked them offshore
The court, however, assured the Jamaat-i-Islami that its petition would be taken up at some convenient time.
In the application filed by Advocate Muhammad Ishtiaq Ahmed Raja on behalf of Mr Haq under Order 33 Rule 6 of the Supreme Court Rules 1980, the petitioner argued that the court’s attention was being sought in the larger national interest to save public money.
The delay in the fixation of case will facilitate the owners of offshore companies to further camouflage their sources of income and money, he added.
In his original petition, Mr Haq had requested the 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 all those culprits who had invested stolen money in offshore companies and bring the public money, which was illegally transferred to those companies, back to the country.
The JI had contended that though Pakistan was making supreme sacrifices in 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 exchequer.
The petition contented that these investments in offshore companies had, in fact, originated from public money through corrupt and illegal means.
It stated 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 to the authorities concerned.
Therefore, the petition emphasised, all such holders of public office were liable to be disqualified from their offices and should be punished.
However, it claimed, due to negligence and inaction on part of the government agencies, the due process of accountability was not being followed in a transparent manner. It added that prevailing accountability regime under NAB did 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 who made such investments through corrupt means by a commission of inquiry under the country’s relevant laws.
Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2023