Government rejects Panama Papers Inquiry Bill


-File Photo

The government Tuesday rejected the Panama Papers Inquiries Bill, 2016 in the National Assembly, saying the bill is against the fundamental rights of an accused and has become infructuous after the Supreme Court took up the matter for investigation.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) member Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho had presented the bill in the house for passage after it had been passed by the Senate.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) demanded the government present the Dawn Leaks inquiry committee report to Parliament for discussion. Law Minister Zahid Hamid said while opposing the bill that it was designed for the prime minister and his family only, but the Supreme Court is already investigating the allegations levelled against the prime minister’s family in the Panama Papers.

“This is a discriminatory bill and also against the fundamental rights of an individual,” he said, adding that the parliament has already passed Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Bill to empower the inquiry commission. Dr Azra said that this bill has nothing to do with the ongoing investigations in the Supreme Court against the prime minister and his family and instead is aimed at investigating all those named in the Panama Papers.

PPP member Naveed Qamar said around 300 Pakistanis have been named in the Panama Papers, but no institution has investigated them. He said if the bill is passed, this powerful commission would not only help investigate the people named in the Panama Papers, but would also be useful in future.

PTI member Shireen Mazari also urged the government not to oppose the bill because the legislation is meant for all those named in the Panama Papers. She said that the government had promised to investigate all those named in the Panama Papers, but is now backtracking from it. Jamaat-e-Islami member Sher Akbar also supported the bill urging the government not to oppose it as it is in the best interest of the country to probe corruption across-the-board.

According to clause 6 of the bill, “all proceedings and documents before the commission shall be open to the public and burden shall be on the respondent and his family to establish the legality of the income, fund or sources expended to acquire property, asset or interest in question. In the event of a gift, the legitimate source of the donor’s income will have to be established.” Speaking on a point of order, the opposition members demanded that the inquiry report into Dawn Leaks should be presented before the Parliament for discussion and debate.

They said the Parliament is the supreme institution and all matters should be discussed in the House. PTI leader Shireen Mazari said that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar had termed the matter against national security and put all the blame on Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi. She questioned why Fatemi was part of the prime minister’s entourage visiting China.

PTI’s Asad Umar said the decision on Dawn Leaks should be brought to the Parliament as this news has defamed the country’s name at the international level. The parliament has the authority to make foreign policy, he added. Another member of PTI Munaza Hassan said that Dawn leaks matter is directly related to the national security; therefore its full report must be released to the public. She questioned as to why the government was hiding the report even after those responsible were being punished.

She also urged the president to take notice of the issue as it is a sensitive matter and must be discussed in parliament. She urged the Deputy Speaker to give a ruling to present the Dawn leaks report in National Security Committee. The house also passed “The Senate Secretariat Services Bill, 2017” unanimously. The legislation is aimed to streamline the services of employees working in the Senate secretariat and provide them a clear career path.

Responding to a calling attention notice moved by Asiya Naz Tanoli and others, Parliamentary Secretary for National Health Services Dr Darshan told the house that tuberculosis control cells have been established in the public sector hospitals in order to check the disease. He said these cells also provide medicines to the TB patients.

The parliamentary secretary said that legislation has been enacted in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to regulate the treatment of TB cases in the private sector. Punjab and Balochistan are also in the process of enacting laws in this regard.

The bills introduced in the house include: “The Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government (Amendment) Bill, 2017”, “The Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 2017”, “The Right to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017”, “The Islamabad Birthing Centre and Hospital Maternity Services Bill, 2017”, “The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2017”, “The Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils (Amendment) Bill, 2017”, “The National Commission for Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2017”, “The National Centre for Countering Violent Extremism Bill, 2017” and “The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2017.”

Earlier, the National Assembly passed a resolution strongly condemning the recent killing of 14 labourers in Gwadar and Kharan. The resolution moved by Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch expressed heartfelt sympathies with the bereaved families; and urged the federal and provincial governments to use all available resources to trace the culprits and bring them to justice.-Business Recorder