The government has approached Speaker National Assembly to intervene and call a meeting of the parliamentary committee on the Panama Papers to finalise terms of references (ToRs) for an inquiry commission to investigate the allegations levelled in the leaked papers, it was learnt.
Government sources told Business Recorder that the decision to involve Speaker National Assembly was taken as no progress has been made in the ongoing backdoor efforts to convince the opposition parties to agree to a meeting of the 12-member parliamentary committee, constituted by the Speaker himself on May 18, 2016 to finalise ToRs.
The two sides have not been able to remove the deadlock during the last eight sessions of the committee and the government side had sought another meeting with the opposition parties but maintains that due to internal differences within the opposition parties notably on how to proceed in the event that there is no agreement on the TORs with the government the meeting could not be held so far.
The committee members of the two major opposition parties, notably Aitzaz Ahsan of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Shah Mehmood Qureshi of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), maintain that the two sides reached a deadlock because the government side is unwilling to accede to opposition’s ToRs.
When contacted, Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rehman confirmed the government has submitted a requisition with the Speaker to call a meeting of the committee.
Anusha Rehman, one of the six members representing the government in the parliamentary committee, however, said that since the committee was constituted by the Speaker it is his prerogative as to when he is going to call the meeting of the committee.
In the last meeting of the committee held on June 14, 2016, the two sides had agreed that the next meeting will be held after mutual consultations of the committee members.
Sources within the opposition parties maintained that Awami National Party (ANP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Qaumi Wattan Party (QWP) maintain that not the Prime Minister but his children should be included in the investigation.
The PPP and PTI, however, want the investigation to begin with the Prime Minister as the chief executive must clear his name first.
Talking to Business Recorder, ANP Senator Ilyas Ahmad Bilour, who is representing his party in the parliamentary committee, said his party would stick to its stance, saying since Prime Minister has not been named in the Panama leaks, therefore only his children should be investigated.
“Neither Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s name appeared in the leaked papers nor can we, as parliamentarians, dictate to the Chief Justice to initiate the probe from the Prime Minister,” he said while referring to the draft of the ToRs framed by opposition parties which calls for initiating the probe from the Prime Minister.
He added that the deadlock persisted on various issues not only with the government but also within the opposition parties.
He said he learnt through the media that the government has once again approached the opposition leader in National Assembly to resume talks but added that as a member of the committee he has not been contacted so far.
However, PTI spokesperson Naeemul Haq stated that there were no differences within the opposition parties and all the opposition parties under the joint opposition had agreed on seven points. One of these points states that the probe should be initiated from the Prime Minister, he added.
He further said that the opposition was ready for a “meaningful” dialogue on ToRs with the government. “If the government approaches us for a meaningful dialogue, our response will be from the platform of joint opposition,” he said, adding the government itself was not clear on its position as to what it really wants.
To a question about the requisition submitted to the Speaker by the government to call a meeting of the committee, the PTI spokesperson said that the Speaker had also intervened earlier. “Let’s see what happens next,” he added. -Business Recorder