Pakistan Chief Justice declines Panama Papers probe

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Pakistan Chief Justice declines Panama Papers probe
ISLAMABAD: File photo of Chief Justice of Pakistan designate Anwar Zaheer Jamali. INP PHOTO

Islamabad - Opposition says its stance vindicated on Panama Leaks issue.

By Afzal Khan

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Published: Sat 14 May 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sat 14 May 2016, 8:39 AM

In a major setback to the government and virtual vindication of the opposition stance, Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali on Friday declined the federal government's plea to form what he termed as "toothless" judicial commission to probe the Panama Papers issue.
Announcing the decision, the CJ said in order for a commission to be formed, a legislation will first have to be passed by the parliament. He further said that a judicial commission cannot be formed until the issue of terms of references (ToRs) is resolved.
"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 a bad name to it," CJ Jamali wrote in the letter. It came amid already charged atmosphere with the opposition framing seven questions for the PM which were to be asked in the Parliament and the PM debunking them saying he is not answerable to the opposition.
The opposition immediately termed it as vindication of its position and accused the government of using dilatory tactics to defuse the matter. Leaders of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah and in the Senate Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan in separate comments described it as endorsement of their position they had taken at the outset. Both urged the government to immediately revise the TORs in consultation with the opposition in order to accelerate the probe and resolve the issue.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while accepting opposition's demand for probe under the CJ, after in initial resistance wrote a letter to him to constitute a commission to probe the Panama Papers leaks. The CJ had left for a week-long trip to Turkey before receiving the letter and that matter had to wait for his return.
In the meantime, the combined opposition began boycotting the sessions of both Houses of Parliament, the National Assembly and the Senate, demanding the prime minister to explain his position in the Parliament. Sharif who rarely attends the parliament, finally announced he would come in the National Assembly on Friday but has now deferred it till Monday. He has, however, declared he would not answer opposition's pointed questions or speak about Panama a Papers leaving it to the judicial commission.
The opposition has evolved with consensus the ToRs to probe the foreign wealth of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family and others against the backdrop of the Panama Papers. The government's TORs are open-ended covering wide range of issues in particular written off loans to rope in several opposition leaders as well. No time-limit has been set for this purpose which critic said would drag the matter to decades.
Sharif says the opposition is only targeting his person and wants to disrupt his development agenda.
"The process of accountability must start to probe into the [Panama] leaks, starting with the prime minister and his family," PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan said while talking to the media in Islamabad.
"For this inquiry, a commission led by the Chief Justice of Pakistan may submit its report in three months," he added.

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