CJP refuses to form ‘toothless Commission’ on govt’s ToRs

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List of individuals, families be provided after legislation for probe: Jamali; Appex Court’s response was expected after baseless propaganda of Opposition: Pervaiz

Sophia Siddiqui

Islamabad—Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali has refused the federal government’s request to form a judicial commission to investigate the Panama Papers leaks, saying it will take years to complete its proceedings with the Terms of Reference sent by the government.
In a written response to a letter by the federal government on Friday, the CJ raised a set of objections to the notification from the federal government.
The chief justice pointed out that the formation of a commission under the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 1956 would only result in the constitution of a toothless commission, which will serve no useful purpose, except giving bad name to it.
According to the written response, a copy of which was obtained by this correspondent, the chief justice points out that the terms of reference “are so wide and open ended that, prima facie, it may take years together for the commission to conclude its proceedings”.
“Therefore, before forming any opinion as to the formation of requisite commission of inquiry or otherwise, it is necessary to have the list of all individuals, families, groups, companies, etc, with their total number, along with some relevant particulars, against whom purported inquiry proceedings are to be held,” wrote the chief justice in his reply.
“Unless such an information and particulars are provided and the issue of formation of Commission under some proper legislation is reconsidered and resolved, no final response to your letter can be furnished,” he added in his reply.
The government had last month sent a letter to the Supreme Court registrar, requesting that the chief justice constitute a high-level judicial commission to investigate the veracity of the allegations against the premier and his family.
The Panama Papers include the names of the family members of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as well as other political leaders including those belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaaf. The data leak also reveals the financial wheeling and dealing of over 200 Pakistanis, including the late Benazir Bhutto, Rehman Malik and other prominent politicians and businessmen.
Since the data leak, the PM has been under immense pressure at the hands of the Opposition to ensure a transparent inquiry is held to justify his children’s offshore companies. The PM has already addressed the nation twice on the disclosures and is also expected to attend the National Assembly session Monday to give answers to oppositions questions on the leaks.
Meanwhile, the PM House has confirmed receiving the CJP letter and said the CJP had not refused to form judicial commission on Panama Papers. PM House spokesman said, the chief justice neither refuses to form JC on Panama Papers leaks nor he asks for framing Terms of References (ToRs) with the consultation of opposition parties.
The word ToRs has not been used in the reply from chief justice, the spokesman said. The PM House went on to say that the letter from the Supreme Court states that specific list of individuals, families and groups should be provided for investigation by the Judicial Commission. It also advises legislation, the spokesman concluded.
The Opposition parties on the other hand say that the Supreme Court has endorsed their point of view on the Panama Papers leaks investigation by demanding a specific list of individuals and families for investigation.
Giving his response on the reply sent by the chief justice, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said the reaction of the apex court was natural in the wake of baseless campaign launched by the opposition parties. The constitution of a commission is a constitutional matter, the Opposition should not make it a political one, and he said adding the government was already ready to work out consensus ToRs with the Opposition. He said the Opposition should keep in mind the sanctity of the Supreme Court and refrain from giving controversial statements.
The information minister said commission will be constituted and the leadership of PML (N) will come out clean in the whole investigation process. The Opposition should also shun intransigence and agree on a practical solution.

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