In a setback to Pakistan government, Supreme Court Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali on Friday refused to set up a judicial commission to probe Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and others in the Panama Paper leak, saying a “toothless” probe panel would not serve any purpose. Sharif last month formally wrote to Jamali to set up and lead a commission to probe those who have been named in Panama leaks.
Panama Papers, a massive leak of 11.5 million tax documents that reportedly exposed the secret offshore dealings of around 140 political figures globally, named three of Sharif’s four children – Maryam, Hasan and Hussain – listing them as owners of offshore companies.
Jamali in his reply to the government said that the proposed probe commission would not serve any purpose unless its scope and powers were clearly known. He asked the government to legislate a special law in parliament.
“Formation of Commission of Inquiry under the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act 1956 (Act VI of 1956), looking to its limited scope, will result in the constitution of a toothless commission, which will serve no useful purpose, except giving bad name to it,” Jamali wrote in the letter.
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He further added that a judicial commission cannot be formed until the issue of terms of references (ToRs) is resolved between the government and opposition parties. “The terms of reference incorporated in the attached notification (of government) are so wide and open-ended that, prima facie, it may take years together for the commission to conclude its proceedings,” he said.
Presently, opposition and government have prepared separate TORs for probe and there is little chance that the two sides agree on a single draft. The main hurdle is that opposition wants the probe to target Sharif while the government wants to probe everyone mentioned in the Panama leaks.
Apart from the government and opposition, last month, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) also issued its draft of ToRs for the proposed probe. Meanwhile, Sharif is expected to address the parliament on Monday on the issue of Panama papers and probe. It will be for the first time that he will face the opposition in the parliament.
Opposition parties this week boycotted the parliamentary session to force Sharif come to the house and issue a formal statement.