Opposition ToRs place burden of proof on prime minister, his family

Opposition parties on Tuesday formulated unanimous Terms of References (ToRs) for formation of a judicial commission to probe Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family with respect to Panama leaks and the inquiry shall be completed within three months.

In somewhat tough ToRs, it was made clear that if the prime minister and his family failed to cooperate with the committee of experts, probing the allegations, or failed to prove that all the assets abroad were made through legal sources, “the commission shall direct them to forthwith liquidate and bring those assets and funds to Pakistan where the state shall forfeit them.”

In the five-page ToRs, the opposition also demanded the government to pass a special law titled “the Panama Papers (Inquiry and Trial) Act 2016,” to facilitate the investigation into assets, foreign and domestic, of the prime minister and all other Pakistanis named in the Panama Papers which shall be formulated with consensus of the opposition.

“A special commission headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan comprising two other judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to be nominated by the chief justice,” the ToRs said.

A 9-member committee of the opposition parties met at the residence of Pakistan People’s Party leader Aitzaz Ahsan in Islamabad to develop a consensus and formulate unanimous ToRs for the investigation.

According to the ToRs, the commission may constitute an international joint investigation team or teams and seek international cooperation from foreign countries/agencies to provide information, documents, evidence and record from abroad for assistance in the investigation.

“The time period for completion of the inquiry relation to the prime minister and his family shall be three months extendable by one month for reasons to be recorded by the commission, from the date of the commencement of the inquiry. The inquiry in respect of other respondents shall be concluded within twelve months,” it said.

The commission may appoint a committee of experts in international forensic audit to carry out an exhaustive investigation and audit into the offshore companies and accounts owned by the prime minister and his family including all transactions, it said.

“It shall be the critical duty of the committee to verify the money trail which provided funds for such offshore companies and the consequential payments out of such funds for investments and other financial transactions,” it said.

Before the commission enters upon any inquiry, the prime minister and his family shall place all and complete information of all their world-wide movable and immovable assets, and interests in properties, benami, beneficial, offshore or otherwise held at any time since 1985 along with full details of the income tax paid year wise since that year, it said.

According to the ToRs, the commission will have all the powers of a court under the constitution, CPC, CrPC and the Supreme Court rules. “A respondent held responsible by the commission for any illegal act or conduct shall be prosecuted and punished in accordance with the law by a court of competent jurisdiction,” it said.

The burden of proof in all matters shall be entirely on the prime minister and his family to prove their innocence, it said.

The terms of references also say that each report of the commission shall be published by the federal government within one week of its submission provided that the report concerning the prime minister and his family shall be completed and submitted in the first instance.

Source: Business Recorder