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Joint opposition agreed on ToRs

04 May, 2016

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ISLAMABAD: The joint opposition on Tuesday succeeded in evolving consensus on the terms of reference (ToRs) of the commission proposed to investigate the offshore assets of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family and others in the backdrop of revelations made by the Panama Papers.

The opposition drafted the consensus ToRs for the judicial commission after a two-day brainstorming session demanding the investigations must begin with the ruling family.

“The proposed judicial commission (JC) should conclude investigations against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family in three months,” according to the ToRs drafted by the opposition.

In order to provide constitutional cover to the investigation process, it also demanded promulgation of Panama Papers (Inquiry and Trial) Act.

To remove jurisdictional issues, secrecy clauses, etc, the opposition’s ToRs would compel the respondents to submit a power of attorney empowering the commission to get any information about their financial assets from all over the world.

The opposition withdrew from the demand of seeking prime minister’s resignation prior to the investigations. Sources told reporters that Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) and Awami National Party (ANP) convinced others not to press this demand, at least for now.

The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) wanted the prime minister to resign arguing he had lost the moral authority to govern the country. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) also synced its voice with the PTI, though it was not as loud.

According to another important clause of the ToRs, the procedure of the inquiry will be fully inquisitorial in character and the burden of proof in all matters will be entirely on the respondent and his family to prove their innocence.

While the time period for completion of the inquiry in connection to the prime minister and his family will be three months, extendable by one month for reasons to be recorded by the commission, from the date of commencement of the inquiry, investigation in respect of other respondents will be concluded within 12 months.

As far as the scope of inquiry is concerned, the commission will investigate as to what properties are held beneficially, benami or otherwise bought and sold by the respondent and his family members during the period 1985 to 2016?; what sources of income were available to the respondent and his family during this period?; were the respondent and his family not required to pay income tax in Pakistan for such incomes?; whether opening, maintaining and operating offshore accounts by or on behalf of the respondent and members of his family or being beneficiaries of such accounts could be regarded as legal or proper for him and/or his family?; whether the respondent and his family were required to disclose money trail/transfer of funds into their offshore accounts and money trail/transfer of funds out of such accounts for purchase of properties or other investments in foreign countries?; and whether a respondent by concealing the ownership and source of income through which the properties were procured, and concealing them in the nomination papers during the previous elections or before relevant tax authorities, has committed corrupt and illegal practices under the election/tax laws?

Sources close to Nawaz Sharif said the opposition’s ToRs might be accepted once the prime minister consults with his legal aides. They said the prime minister was already advised by his advisors not to budge on the issue of resignation but accept anything short of that.

Unlike government’s, the opposition’s ToRs did not contain anything about written-off loans. Sources said the government would insist that the proposed JC must deal with the issue of written-off loans. The opposition believed the investigations into written-off loans would require years to conclude.

PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan told media after the meeting that inquiry details would be made public.

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