The Panama puzzle persists as Prime Minister’s speech somehow fails to clear the air

WEB DESK: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday suggested Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq to form a parliamentary committee comprising Leader of Opposition and other parliamentary leaders to develop consensus on terms of references to investigate the Panama Papers scandal.

Speaking on floor of the Lower House, the Prime minister said he is ready to present all relevant evidence before a forum unanimously decided by the parliamentary committee.

— Speaker urged to constitute parliamentary body to investigate Panama leaks scandal

— PM underscores need for across the board accountability

— Opposition expresses disappointment after finding ‘no answer’ to its seven questions

“We will present all our evidence before that forum, so that politics of accusations and allegations comes to an end,” he said.

Presenting his tax details, he said he and his family paid some Rs 10 billion in taxes during the last 23 years and all its record is available with the Federal Board of Revenue.

“I personally paid 36 million rupees in taxes during the last 23 years,” he said, adding that he gained nothing in the politics but lost a lot.

Talking about money trail for the controversial London flats that are also featured in the Panama Papers, he said his father established a company in the name of Gulf Steels in Dubai in 1972 and sold it in 1980 for US $9 million.

“I wasn’t in politics when my father established and sold this company in Dubai,” he said. The prime minister said his family set up a steel mill in Jeddah after they were sent in exile following the 1999 military coup and they set up a steel mill there with the capital they received through the sale of the Dubai factory.

“We sold this (Jeddah steel mill) factory for US $64 million in June 2005 and all record for the Jeddah and Dubai steel mills is available,” he said, “these are the resources and sources of income with which the London flats are bought.”

Referring to formal reply of Chief Justice of Pakistan to the government on its request of forming a judicial commission to probe the Panama Papers, he said the legal experts are examining it, but it should not be difficult to come up with a plausible solution.

The prime minister also emphasised that an effective accountability process should be initiated in the country against all those who are involved in money-laundering, tax evasion, loan write-off and misuse of authority.

He said that an inclusive consultation should be initiated in the house to point out discrepancies in the accountability system in order to strengthen it. “The culture of hurling accusations should come to an end because this not only hurts politicians but also integrity of the democracy,” he said.

The prime minister said that he wants the accountability process to begin without any delay as he doesn’t want to make it an issue of ego for him.

“Our hands are clean; therefore we don’t need any legal or constitutional immunity,” he said.

Alluding to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan, he said that he donated official land to some welfare organisations besides offering tax incentives for import of the machinery.

“We didn’t use any official resources for Ittefaq foundation and Sharif Medical Complex while being in power,” he said, adding the people who are living in a palatial house, move around in helicopters and luxury vehicles should also inform the august house about their sources of income.

During the prime minister’s speech, members of the ruling party kept applauding every sentence said by him by thumping their desks.

“I believe in judiciary and even the retired judges but some people reacted adversely and even defamed those judges, then they demanded an investigation by FIA,” the premier said.

The premier said that his government accepted their demand and nominated FIA officials trusted by the opposition, but even this proposal was rejected.

Then the opposition wanted a commission led by Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan, “we agreed to that, but then they made the issue of ToRs controversial.”

“No one shall have any doubt that the ToRs suggested by the opposition only want accountability for me. This is inexplicable that a man whose name is nowhere in Panama Papers should explain himself,” he said.

Later, Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar urged the Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq to form the committee suggested by the premier in consultation with the joint opposition.

The Speaker asked the Law Minister Zahid Hamid to prepare the motion on formation of the parliamentary committee to prepare the consensus ToRs with negotiations of the opposition. – Business Recorder