Imran explains his position, Khursheed appears optimistic about resolution

WEB DESK: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday said that his party would take to the streets if the government failed to initiate a fair accountability process on the Panama Papers.

Speaking in the National Assembly, he also presented himself and his Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital (SKMCH) for accountability under the same terms of references which would be formulated for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

“If nothing happens (on the Panama Papers), it’ll be my party’s democratic right to take to the streets and protest against the government,” he said. Khan also challenged the government to investigate him through NAB and Federal Board of Revenue and arrest him if found guilty of having assets beyond his sources of income. “You (the government) have the FBR and NAB … you have the authority to arrest the culprits and if I’m doing anything wrong, arrest and punish me,” he said.

Giving his asset details, he said he earned abroad through county cricket and bought a penthouse in London in 1983 through an offshore company and declared the complete sale deed in one of his press conferences in 2012. “I sold that flat in 2003 and brought the amount to Pakistan. This all is a declared income,” he said, adding “I didn’t have any other source of income except cricket as I didn’t hold any public office.” Khan also submitted his tax details and sale deed of the penthouse with Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq for record.

Referring to prime minister’s speech in the Lower House, he said Nawaz Sharif as a chief minister gave him a plot in 1987 for victory against India and then as a prime minister he gave plots to him and the rest of team in 1992 for winning the World Cup. “If I’d a craze for money, I would have built a foundry or sugar mill, but I donated both the plots and two vehicles to Shaukat Khanum,” he said.

Khan also criticised the prime minister for not speaking truth on the floor of the house, saying “if a prime minister had given this speech in a European country, he would have to resign.” The prime minister said he bought the London flats in 2005 but the proofs contradict it, he said, adding the official documents say these flats were bought in 1993, 1995 and 2004.

“The same four properties were attached by a UK court in October 1999 and then $33 million were paid to Al-Taufeeq Bank in London to get these properties,” he said, “if there is nothing to hide, then tell the nation the source of money.” Khan said corruption cannot be abolished until accountability is started from the top; therefore it should begin from the prime minister. “Being an opposition leader, I’m doing my job of pointing out flaws in the government’s performance,” he said, adding democracy will get roots only if the corrupts are held accountable. Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah also lambasted the prime minister for not “presenting facts and figures” about his and his family’s sources of incomes and how and when the London flats were bought.

“If your children don’t want to invest here, then they should also have nationalities of the countries where they are living and investing a lot,” he said, adding that it is ethically, if not legally, incorrect to invest in other countries when majority of people here are living below the poverty line. Shah said the opposition wants to make the Terms of References for a judicial commission that could help ascertain whether the prime minister has done anything wrong or not. “We want to strengthen this system and the parliament,” he said, adding that all should be held accountable.

He also questioned the prime minister’s sources of incomes and his family’s ownership of the offshore companies revealed by the Panama Papers. Shah said the opposition had put “easy” questions to the prime minister but he failed to respond to them. “Parliament is the proper forum to resolve all issues and that’s why we had repeatedly asked the prime minister to come to the house to respond to all the allegations,” he said. While responding to the speech of PTI Chief Imran Khan, Federal Minister for Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif said the hands should be cleaned of those who asked the accountability of the Prime Minster.

He said that an offshore company is an offshore company, regardless of where it is located. “Those who hurl stones at others should not be tainted with the same sins they accuse others of committing,” he said. Khawaja Asif said that PTI chairman Imran Khan in his speech mentioned that he (Imran Khan) has his own offshore company and since the Panama scandal surfaced he kept on criticising those named, but never mentioned his own company in New Jersey. An offshore company in Panama is no different than the one that is in New Jersey.

“An offshore company remains an offshore company no matter what,” he said. He claimed that Imran Khan’s Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre did not publish its balance sheet for three years. “Shaukat Khanum is respectable to us and we also took part in its creation,” he said. “We are not harming Imran Khan’s charity organisation, he himself is damaging his institution with his own actions,” the Minister said. The Minister said that Shaukat Khanum was a respectable institution which was operating due to donations, grants and zakat money. He said that it was in everyone’s interest that the cancer hospital ran efficiently and Imran Khan had caused the most harm to the institution.

He said that if the prime minister could present himself for accountability, then the money invested in the name of charity and charity organisations should also be investigated. “If you (Imran Khan) take shelter behind Shaukat Khanum’s banner then it will become further controversial,” Khawaja said. He said that when Imran Khan calls for fundraising in the US, he does not differentiate between Shaukat Khanum hospital and his party, PTI.

The Minister said the government is not running away from accountability and, whoever wants to investigate the corruption scandal, the government is willing to provide details to them in this regard. He said, “the process of accountability should begin with Nawaz Sharif, he himself has agreed to it. There are many names that were found in Panama papers but the focus is on politicians,” he claimed. Khawaja Asif also raised questions over around Rs 4 billion that were collected to build houses in flood-hit areas by Imran Khan Foundation. He asked Khan to explain how those funds were utilised.

He said that both opposition and the government have an opportunity today to establish an institution for accountability through the Parliament. He said that this institution should carry out across-the-board accountability. He said that the Parliament is the most supreme and respectable institution, and it should take the matter of investigating Panama leaks into its jurisdiction. “If the Parliament was weak in the past, we should take responsibility for it,” he said. Asif Hasnain of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) said that it was quite interesting to note that those people whose names have been mentioned in the Panama Papers would prepare Terms of References (ToRs).

Source: Business Recorder