Opposition parties for audit of Nawaz’s offshore companies

Staff Reporter:

ISLAMABAD: Rejecting the judicial commission announced by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his address to the nation in the wake of Panama Papers leak, the opposition parties in the National Assembly  called for a forensic audit of offshore assets and investments of Sharifs by an international firm.
The house began debate on matters arising out of Panama Papers leak on a motion moved by Minister for Law Zahid Hamid.
Commencing debate, Leader of the Opposition Syed Khurshid Ahmad Shah strongly opposed the creation of judicial commission on the matter saying the judiciary is not meant to hold audit of account. The matter should be probed into by an international firm of repute, he said adding Panama Papers have raised certain issues regarding tax evasion and investment.”
He said on the one hand the government announced tax amnesty scheme to motivate people to pay taxes but in this case investments were made in off shore companies to evade tax.
He said such investment might be legal but politicians and the prime minister should stand high on moral grounds.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf Chairman Imran Khan said allegations have not been levelled by the opposition but a consortium of journalists.
He said instead of responding to the allegations, the government is resorting to counter allegations by pointing fingers against Shaukat Khanum Hospitals investments and his Bani Gala property. He said in the Panama Papers allegations of tax evasion, money laundering and hiding of assets have been levelled. He said the Panama Papers have afforded an opportunity to address ills of our tax system and resolve financial and economic problems of the country.
He also said there should be independent inquiry and NAB should be made genuinely independent. Imran said a foreign company should be hired for forensic audit into the matters raised by Panama Papers leak, adding that a fully empowered commission may also be given the task to hold investigation into all the allegations of corruption including the ones raised by the government officials on his Bani Gala property as well as relating to Shaukat Khanum Hospital.
Minister for Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif said the names of children of prime minister were mentioned in Panama Papers but there was no reference of PM Nawaz Sharif. Nevertheless, Nawaz Sharif addressed the nation and gave a complete background of his family business. He pointed out that many other names have also been listed in Panama Papers but none of them has clarified his position.
He said the Prime Minister has announced setting up of a high-level judicial commission which will have comprehensive terms of reference to ensure transparency of its investigations. About demand of the leader of the opposition regarding forensic audit by a company, the minister said anyone can appear before the commission and produce any evidence.
Khawaja Asif clarified that it would be an inquiry commission headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court. He said if someone has any objection to the inquiry commission then he may move the Supreme Court.
The Opposition has been resorting to agitation since the last three years but no one went to the judiciary as these were mere allegations and had no evidence to present. He pointed that funds of a charity organization were invested in offshore companies.
In his remarks, Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanvir Hussain said the government has already offered to do anything to get to the bottom of facts. He said there is no allegation against the prime minister in Panama Papers and he made no wrong declaration before the Election Commission.
He said in any society grownup children have the right to undertake any legal business activity. He said criticism of the commission at this stage was unjustified. However, the opposition will have a right to agitate if restrictions were placed on the working of the commission in its terms of reference.