Opposition critical of one-member commission to probe Sharif family

Source:  AFP Published in Politics on Wednesday, April 06, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Politicians belonging to opposition parties severely criticised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's decision to form a judicial commission to clear his children of allegations that resurfaced after 'Panama Papers' revelations.

The Pakistan People's Party termed the premier's address to the nation last evening “most unfortunate,” because he “blamed his woes on the policies of Zulfikar and Benazir Bhutto to deflect the storm brewing as a result of the Panama Papers.”

“Instead of answering questions raised in the leaked documents, the PM resorted to a blame-game against PPP leaders,” Farhatullah Babar, the party’s spokesperson, said in a statement issued soon after the PM’s address.

Responding to the PM’s claims regarding the detention of the cargo ship ‘Jonathan’, Babar said, “He conveniently forgot that the cargo ship was held up by customs authorities after it was found to be carrying a sugar plant instead of the intended steel scrap cargo.”

The prime minister, Babar said, would do well to answer questions raised by the leaked documents, rather than playing a blame-game.

Talking to a private television channel, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Asad Umar claimed that the whole nation is disappointed over the “one-member judicial commission” formed to probe such a critical matter.

“He [PM Nawaz] said whoever has a complaint against him or his family shall go to the commission and prove it, which is a joke since it is the PM who needs to prove his innocence,” said Umar.

PTI spokesman Naeemul Haq, in a statement, said the PM had not specified who would choose the judge to head the proposed judicial commission, or whether it will be empowered to examine Sharifs’ assets abroad as well.

Haq also contended that rather than anyone else having to prove their claims, it was the Sharifs who would have to account for their wealth before the commission.

Jamaat-i-Islami emir Sirajul Haq said if the premier sincerely desires a probe, he should immediately hand over the matter to the National Accountability Bureau so that the truth is out.

He said given nature of the allegations, inquiry into the matter is not the job of a retired judge. Rather a full-fledged investigation agency should do the task.

Or else, he suggested, the matter should be entrusted to the Chief Justice of Pakistan who should appoint a judicial commission comprising three senior most judges of the apex court for the purpose.

PM Nawaz orders judicial commission to clear sons

In an effort to calm the storm whipped up by the revelations contained in the recently leaked Panama Papers, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his speech on Tuesday night announced that a judicial commission would investigate the offshore companies owned by his children.

Instead of giving a clarification over Panama leaks, Nawaz reminded the nation about his family's business problems within Pakistan by saying that his father's venture Ittefaq foundries was successful before creation of Pakistan but after independence, he lost an industrial plant established in Dhaka, with the fall of East Pakistan in 1971.

The very next year, PPP founder Zulfikar Bhutto nationalised the foundry in Lahore, leaving the family penniless in no time.

When returned in 1979, his father had to work day in and day out to bring the business back on its feet.

He maintained that his son Hassan Nawaz has been living in London since 1994 while Hussain Nawaz is in Saudi Arabia since the year 2000 and whatever business concerns they own are in their name.

“People who want to hide their business don’t register them in their own name,” said Sharif.

Explaining further, the prime minister said his father established another industrial plant in Makkah, following the military coup in 1999. The plant was “later sold, and my sons invested the funds into their businesses.”

He invited all politicians hurling allegations against him and his family to present evidence of any financial wrongdoing before the judicial commission.

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