Govt, Opposition lock horns over Panama Papers

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Pervaiz refutes notion Sharifs hid assets; CJP-headed Commission should hold forensic audit: Qureshi

Zahid Chaudhary

Islamabad—Opposition and Treasury members engaged in a verbal brawl on the second day in the National Assembly on Friday over the issue of offshore companies and investments of the Sharif family as indicated by the recently-published Panama Papers leak.
Amidst slogans of ‘go and go’ and rumpus by the opposition, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid reacted strongly to the speeches by opposition members satirically stating that some people who made speeches appear to have come to the House after washing away their sins in ‘Ganga and Jamna’ rivers. He made it clear that the family of Nawaz Sharif has not hidden any assets nor their acts caused any damage to the economy or the national exchequer.
The Panama Papers do not contain any word that the Nawaz Sharif, his family or the PML-N did anything contradictory to law or morality, the minister said.
He said leaks only contain names of offshore companies and making investment in them is not illegal or immoral. He said those who misuse offshore companies hide their identities and use fake identities while the sons of the Prime Minister did not do so.
Pervaiz said those demanding the sons of the Prime Minister to bring back the money to the country should understand that they were forced to stay away from the country following the coup of 1999 and they had to start their career abroad.
He said they are doing business according to law but the Opposition regrettably has resorted to do politics on the issue.
Therefore, he said the prime minister presented his sons for accountability by forming the judicial commission. He said it is only the hallmark of PML-N which has always presented itself for accountability.
The Minister for Information reminded the PTI Chairman Imran Khan of siphoning off money belonging to a charity. He said the PTI Chairman is using cancer patients of Shaukat Khanum as a shield to hide his wrongdoings.
Pervaiz said that a judicial commission, headed by a retired judge, is being constituted to investigate the whole matter.
He, however, said that those who want to take the matter to the Supreme Court are free to do so according to the Constitution of the country.
Participating in the debate, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the government’s explanations regarding the leaks were not satisfactory and reiterated his party’s call for the Chief Justice of Pakistan to head a judicial commission probing the leaks.
Qureshi said an international forensic audit firm should be hired to probe the Sharifs, adding that the National Accountability Bureau, the State Bank of Pakistan, the Election Commission of Pakistan and the Federal Board of Revenue should also take action in this regard.
He, however, said it would not be appropriate to target only Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family regarding the leaks, as the Panama Papers also includes names of several other prominent Pakistanis, including politicians.
PPP MNA Shazia Marri lamented that the Supreme Court had not taken a suo motu notice on the matter and said Parliament should be informed of where the money that was stashed into offshore companies came from.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmad termed the Panama Papers an adverse campaign initiated at an international level in order to create obstacles in Pakistan’s progress.
The minister claimed that ‘some forces’ that do not want the completion of the Gwadar Port and other infrastructural projects launched by the PML-N government had resorted to such tactics.
Jahangir Tareen said the commission headed by CJP should only investigate the matter about Sharifs family while a special cell should be established in FBR for probe into the offshore companies of other Pakistanis.

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