Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government has introduced “Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Bill, 2016” in the National Assembly to enhance the powers of the Commission to investigate the Panama Papers, accounts of offshore companies, loan write-off and other related issues.
However, opposition parties Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) totally rejected the Bill and termed it an attempt aimed at prolonging the issue of ‘Panama Leaks.’
Federal Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid Friday tabled the “Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Bill, 2016” in the Lower House of the Parliament. Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq referred the Bill to relevant Standing Committee for further deliberations.
Zahid Hamid said the Bill enhances powers of the Commission. He said that Parliamentary Committee on the Panama Papers held eight meetings for formulating Terms of Reference (ToRs) for an inquiry commission but the opposition did not show flexibility.
He said a ‘Bill’ submitted by the opposition in the Senate is one-sided which focuses on the Prime Minister and his family.
PPP leader Syed Naveed Qamar said “this Bill has been designed to protect the Prime Minister. The government wants investigation of many issues but not the Panama Leaks.
The Bill is to prolong the issue of “Panama Papers”. This Bill is totally wastage of time and the government does not want to tell the facts to the nation, he added.
PTI Vice President Shah Mehmood Qureshi endorsed the views of Naveed Qamar and said, “The Bill is tabled to obscure the facts about the Prime Minister and his family relating to Panama Leaks. This Bill is tantamount to bury the inquiry of Panama Papers, he said.
According to clause 4 of “Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Bill, 2016,” “The Commission shall have the powers of a Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (Act V of 1908) for the purposes of this Act.
The Commission shall have the following powers, namely:- (a) summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath; (b) requiring the discovery and production of any documents; (c)receiving evidence on affidavits; (d)issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents; and (e) requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office.”
According to other clauses of the Bill, “The Commission shall also have the power to require any person or authority, subject to any privilege which may be claimed by that person or authority under any law for the time being in force, to furnish information or documents on such points or matters as, in the opinion of the Commission, may be useful for, or relevant to, the subject-matter of the inquiry.
“The Commission may forward the case to a magistrate having jurisdiction to try the same, who shall proceed to hear the complaint against the accused as if the case had been forwarded to him.
“The Commission also authorised the Chairman or any officer, not below the rank of an officer of BS- 17, specially authorised in this behalf by the Chairman,- (a) may enter any building or place where the Commission has reason to believe that any books of account or other documents relating to the subject matter of the inquiry may be found; and (b) may seize any such books of account or documents or take extracts or copies there from, subject to the provisions of section 102 and section 103 of the CrPC, in so far as they may be applicable.
“The Commission shall, for the purposes of this Act, have the power to order a police investigation into any matter coming before it.
“The Commission shall have the same powers as that of a High Court to punish any person who,- (a) abuses, interferes with or obstructs the process of the Commission in any way or disobeys any order of the Commission; (b) scandalises the Commission or otherwise does anything which tends to bring the Commission or a member of the Commission in relation to his office into hatred, ridicule or contempt; (c) does anything which tends to prejudice the determination of a matter pending before the Commission; or (d) does any other thing which, by any other law, for the time being in force constitutes contempt of court:
“Provided further that if the Chairperson of the Commission is a Judge of the Supreme Court the Commission shall have the powers of Supreme Court for the purposes of this sub-section: “Explanation.- For the purposes of this sub-section, “Judge” includes the Chief Justice.
“In case the specific nature of the inquiry so requires, the Federal Government may, by Notification, confer the following additional powers on the Commission for the purposes of this Act, namely:¬ (a)all the powers of a criminal court under the CrPC; (b) power to constitute special teams, consisting of officers from the executive authorities and experts in specific fields, for the purposes of assisting the Commission in conducting an inquiry.
The special teams shall have such powers as may be prescribed; (c) power to constitute an international team and seek international cooperation from foreign countries or agencies to get information, documents, evidence and record or issue letters and interrogatories in accordance with applicable international instruments; (d) power to issue, in accordance with the provisions of Order XXVI of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (Act V of 1908), a Letter Rogatory or Letter of Request to the competent judicial authority in another country seeking its assistance in examination and recording evidence of a witness residing within the jurisdiction of such authority; and (e) such other powers as are deemed necessary for conducting the inquiry.
“The Commission shall be the duty of all executive authorities in the Federation and the Provinces to act in aid of the Commission in the discharge of its functions and to comply with any of its directions.
“The Federal Government shall provide all necessary funds and facilities to enable the Commission to perform its functions under this Act. The Final Report or an interim report of the Commission shall be made public:” -Business Recorder