Amid an exchange of harsh words between treasury and opposition lawmakers, the Senate on Thursday passed the opposition-sponsored bill titled ‘Panama Papers Inquiries Act, 2016’ with some minor amendments, seeking constitution of a judicial commission to investigate the Panama Papers scandal, with 39 votes against 18 votes.
The House got off to a raucous start after Opposition Leader in Senate Aitzaz Ahsan reacted to a remark by Law and Justice Minister Zahid Hamid who alleged that opposition MPs did not honour their promise of getting an extension to further discuss the bill in the concerned committee.
“They’d promised to us that the committee will seek more time from the House to further deliberate upon the bill but despite a solemn commitment, they backtracked from the commitment which is not fair,” he lamented.
This prompted Aitzaz to say that the sarcastic remark by law minister was directed to him, which according to him was untrue, adding the government must not forget that it is the Prime Minister who backtracked from his commitment that he gave on floor of the House.
“We all know what the Prime Minister said on the floor of the House and how his lawyers interpreted his speech in Supreme Court,” he added.
The remarks by Aitzaz left the treasury red-faced, forcing Mushahidullah Khan, ruling party’s Parliamentary Leader in Senate, to pay back in the same coin, saying those involved in disintegrating Pakistan and giving out a list of Indian insurgent Sikhs must not cross the limits.
“I’ve done PhD on your past, so better think about your words before you say anything against the Prime Minister as I’m sitting here only to respond to your allegations,” Khan retorted amid thumping of desks by fellow treasury lawmakers.
The House had already rejected a motion, seeking more time for a debate on the bill hence no amendments could be incorporated under the law during legislation in House.
Using his discretionary powers, the chairman Senate, however, allowed Senators Ayesha Raza Farooq, Nehal Hashmi of ruling party and Sirajul Haq of Jamaat-e-Islami to bring their amendments, but all amendments put forth by the PML-N duo were rejected with a majority vote by opposition, while a few minor amendments by Sirajul ul Haq were incorporated.
The chair also rejected the amendments moved by another PML-N lawmaker Saleem Zia, saying he did not find them in order.
During the legislation, the treasury MPs kept saying the proposed law was prime minister-specific, which was also bulldozed by the concerned parliamentary committee as opposition senators were not given chance to give their input.
The bill, moved by the opposition parties will now be sent to the National Assembly where the government would likely to reject it because it commands majority in the lower house.
The government is of the view that the opposition has brought the bill with mala fide intentions and it is specific to the probe of Panama Leaks, the issue of written off loans, offshore companies, the Bahamas Leaks and other financial crimes to be committed in future should also be included in it.
The bill provides for the constitution of a commission of inquiry to inquire into the revelations made by the disclosures contained in the Panama Papers.
“And where as it is necessary to provide for a uniform, fair, non-discriminatory and transparent process of inquiry into the means by which the Panama-related properties, assets and interests were acquired by all Pakistani nationals thus named (in the Panama Leaks) and their families,” says the bill.
Interestingly, members of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), a government ally, supported the opposition-sponsored bill, whereas Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini of opposition BNP-Mengal voted against the bill along with government members. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Pakistan abstained from a vote on the bill.