ISLAMABAD: Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Aitzaz Ahsan has opposed the formation of an inquiry commission by the Supreme Court on the Panamagate scam, asking the judges to themselves decide the case “on the basis of the terms of reference (ToR) contained in the bill submitted by the opposition” in parliament.
Talking to reporters at his Parliament House chamber here on Monday, Mr Ahsan said that although there were examples that the Supreme Court in the past had constituted commissions under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, he believed that such a commission on the Panama Papers leaks would further delay the inquiry process.
“There are precedents of formation of the commissions by the Supreme Court under Article 184(3) like Memo Commission and a commission on media. But in our opinion, in this (Panama) case, the commission should not be constituted,” the senior PPP leader added.
“If you want to decide the case quickly, then the SC should decide the case itself on the basis of the ToR contained in the opposition’s bill,” he added.
Mr Ahsan alleged that the government wanted to delay the inquiry process in the Panamagate case which was evident from the fact that its lawyers had sought two weeks’ time from the court to submit documents about the Sharif family’s properties in foreign countries and details of money trail. The rulers wanted to seek more time so that they could “doctor and fabricate” the documents, he added.
He said all opposition parties had a consensus on the ToR and draft of the bill which would be taken up by the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice on Tuesday (today). In reply to a question, he said the committee’s meeting was scheduled for Monday, but was postponed for a day by the government at the request of Law Minister Zahid Hamid.
The PPP senator said the future of the opposition’s Panama bill depended on the government which had majority in the National Assembly.
The Senate standing committee headed by Javed Abbasi of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N will take up the “Panama Papers Inquiries Act 2016” introduced by Mr Ahsan in the Senate on Sept 26 after the opposition managed to defeat the government in the voting by a margin of 13 votes.
The committee is taking up the bill at a time when the SC has already announced that it will itself prepare the ToR for the proposed commission to investigate the offshore companies set up by hundreds of Pakistanis, including the children of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as revealed by the Panama Papers.
The government has already rejected the bill as “infructuous and useless” and sources said the law ministry would again oppose it.
On the other hand, the opposition is of the opinion that the Supreme Court cannot stop parliament from doing legislation. It says the opposition’s bill will facilitate investigations into the Panama scandal.
The government terms the opposition’s bill “completely discriminatory” aimed at targeting the prime minister, whose name is not even mentioned in the Panama Papers.
The opposition’s bill binds the commission to first investigate Prime Minister Sharif and members of his family before proceeding against the other Pakistanis named in the Panama Papers.
However, the text avoids naming PM Sharif or his office, instead referring to: “respondents, who publicly volunteers himself and his family for accountability or who publicly admits holding of off-shore assets, along with his family, shall be completed and submitted in the first instance.”