Panama gate: Both sides of the aisle agree on ToRs panel
ISLAMABAD: The government and the opposition have agreed to form a joint parliamentary committee to draft the terms of reference (ToRs) for a proposed inquiry commission that will look into the Panama Papers scandal that revealed last month that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s children own offshore companies.
During his address to the National Assembly on Monday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif suggested forming a parliamentary committee to devise consensus ToRs for establishing a judicial commission.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had returned a request of the government regarding formation of the commission on ToRs unilaterally suggested by the government and said constitution of a ‘toothless commission’ would serve no purpose.
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The government’s earlier suggested ToRs had broadened the scope of inquiry beyond the Panama Papers revelations to include all graft cases including those related to waiver of bank loans.
However, the apex court’s response forced the ruling PML-N to take on board the opposition parties to form new ToRs for the proposed panel, which the opposition has been insisting should initiate its inquiry from the prime minister and his family.
“Comprising 12 members – six each from government and opposition parties – the panel will be formed through a resolution in the National Assembly on Thursday (today) and will formulate ToRs within two weeks of its notification. It will submit its report in parliament,” said Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid.
He was talking to reporters after a two-hour consultative meeting between the government and opposition parties held at the chamber of the National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq.
The government side was represented by Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Asif, Zahid Hamid, Khawaja Saad Rafique, and Pervaiz Rashid while the opposition side included Khursheed Shah, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Aftab Sherpao, Aitzaz Ahsan, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, SahibzadaTariqullah, Israrullah Zehri, Muhammad Kamal, Abdul Wasim and Ali Raza Abdi.
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Rashid said it was agreed during the meeting that mandate of the panel will cover drafting of ToRs providing for investigations not only into the Panama leaks but also into cases of bank loan waivers, commissions, kickbacks, and offshore companies other than those mentioned in Panama Papers.
The minister said the government would finalise names of its members of the committee after consultation with its allies. “The committee will look into all areas of corruption,” he added.
The opposition has, however, nominated a six-member team. It includes Ghulam Ahmad Bilour (ANP), Shah Mehmood Qureshi (PTI), Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpeo (QWP), Leader of the Opposition in Senate Aitzaz Ahsan (PPP), Tariq Bashir Cheema (PML-Q), and Sahibzada Tariq Ullah (JI).
Talking to The Express Tribune, PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi said: “Mandate [of the committee] will clearly be mentioned in a resolution that will be moved on Thursday (today) in parliament for the formation of this committee.”
Qureshi, who is nominated as one of the six members of the opposition’s team, said there was no harm if all these issues were addressed through an inquiry commission. “The PTI is against all sort of corruption, whether it’s money laundering, waiving of bank loans, or kickbacks,” he added.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah hoped the ongoing controversy will be resolved through parliament. “Otherwise, we will be left with no other option but to take the matter to the streets,” he said.
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Talking to The Express Tribune, another member of the opposition team, Aftab Sherpao, said the government does not want to keep the scope of the proposed committee limited to investigations into Panama Papers controversy.
The opposition team does not include the name of any parliamentarian from the MQM. “We don’t know their status if they are with the opposition or the government,” Khursheed Shah said. However, MQM’s MNA Ali Raza Abidi wrote on Twitter that the MQM will be a part of the TOR committee as an independent opposition party.
Once the ToRs are formed, the draft will be submitted for formal endorsement of parliament and for its onward submission to the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The top court, in turn, will form a judicial commission that would investigate issues while living within the scope of commission mentioned in ToRs.