Speaking at a news conference along with Law Minister Zahid Hamid, Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rehman as well as leaders of the coalition parties Senator Hasil Bizenjo of the National Party and Akram Khan Durrani of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Finance Minister Ishaq Dar also did not rule out negotiations with opposition parties on two separate bills.
“We’ve never shut down doors for negotiation provided talks are in a professional manner…talks can be held with opposition parties and even the two bills can be clubbed together to end the deadlock,” Dar said.
However, he noted that the opposition parties have a “stated mindset” from the day first to initiate the probe from the Prime Minister even though his name has never been mentioned in the leaked papers.
Responding to a query, he said the government wanted to bring a consensus bill but the opposition did not reciprocate to its sincere efforts.
However, he said that the government is still pursuing reconciliatory approach to the issue.
Defending the government bill titled ‘The Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Bill, 2016’,
he said the “comprehensive” bill offers an across-the-board accountability in the context of the Panama leaks and other accusations.
He said that the Bill would replace the 1956 Inquiry Commission Act and also provide for constituting an empowered commission to investigate the allegations of written-off loans, offshore companies in Panama and other countries, kickbacks, and asset-making beyond the known sources of income.
He said all the 400 accused mentioned in Panama Papers will be held accountable under the new law and an empowered law has been drafted with good intentions for a national service for decades to come.
He stated that the opposition refused to sit with the government team although the government repeatedly contacted the Speaker National Assembly for the purpose to end the deadlock.
Criticising the opposition’s approach, Dar said the opposition submitted a bill on the subject to the Senate Secretariat, which, as reported in the media, is person-specific having a limited approach.
“It shows their irresponsible attitude in the parliament,” he said, adding the opposition’s bill implies that it does not want to be part of the efforts to curb corruption, but only wants to create hurdles in the way of the government’s working.
He said the opposition’s negative politics based on allegations and sit-ins has already caused a heavy loss to the national economy.
“They [opposition parties] are worried because load shedding is going to come to an end in September next year, Pakistan is forwarding in a right direction and the country’s economy is showing tremendous progress,” Dar further said while criticising the opposition for its anti-government agitations.
Speaking on the occasion, Zahid Hamid said lists have been prepared of those named in Panama papers, those having offshore companies in other countries, those accused of taking kickbacks, and asset-making beyond known sources of income in the light of the Supreme Court’s judgement.
Sharing the key features of the proposed inquiry commission law, he said the bill contains all the provisions of the 1956 Act and it will allow for an empowered commission in the light of the Supreme Court’s observations.
He said the provincial governments are expected to cooperate with the commission, which could also seek assistance of the national institutions as well foreign inquiry agencies. He said that report of the inquiry commission will be made public and the commission will be empowered in getting assistance from any national or international probing agencies.
He said the opposition’s bill submitted in the Senate is only Prime Minister-specific and his family.
“Confining the investigation into Panama Papers only means that no inquiry will be held into the offshore companies held by PTI leaders in other countries,” he added.
The government team also unveiled its ToRs for the proposed commission “to examine information relating to involvement of Pakistani citizens, persons of Pakistan origin and legal entities in off-shore companies in Panama or any other county as per the list attached (Schedule-A), determine in each case whether any law for the time being in force has been infringed, and is so, also determine responsibility for such infringement.
Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, the Commission shall determine whether the provisions of laws relating to income tax, wealth tax, foreign exchange, companies and elections in force at the relevant time have been infringed, with due regard inter-alia to the following matters, as may be applicable to each case:-
(a) Details of properties held by the off-shore companies;
(b) Sources of income utilised to purchase the properties in (a) above,
(c) Income tax if any payable/paid on the income in (b) above; and
(d) Details of sellers of the properties in (a) above.
To examine information relating to written-off bank loans including:- (i) Report of the commission on written-off loans set up by the Supreme Court; and (ii) other cases of bank loans written-off after the period covered by the said Commission by former or present holders of elective public office, determine whether in any case loans were written-off through political influence or other than commercial considerations; and to examine information relating to transfer from Pakistan of funds which have originated from corruption, commissions and kickbacks and identify the persons responsible; and to make such recommendations as it may deem appropriate in all cases. -Business Recorder