Published On:Wednesday, 4 May 2016
Posted by Chaudhry

SC in ‘catch-22’ over Panama commission

SC in ‘catch-22’ over Panama commission

ISLAMABAD: The chief justice of Pakistan may not consider constitution of a judicial commission to investigate revelations made by the Panama Papers regarding involvement of Pakistan’s elite in the offshore business, especially the Sharif family, unless both opposition and the government develop consensus on the terms of reference (ToRs).
Sources told Daily Times that in a recent meeting held at the Supreme Court, the honourable judges of the apex court were skeptical about the formation of the judicial commission, especially before an accord is reached over the ToRs.
The Ministry of Law and Justice last month wrote a letter to Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali for constitution of an inquiry commission to investigate the Panama leaks. The Supreme Court has yet to respond to the government’s request.
The judges are wary of the fact that their credibility was questioned in the past when they probed allegations of rigging in the 2013 general elections. They are apprehensive that this time too they may face criticism from the political parties belonging to the opposition if the decision goes in favour of the government. They are apparently not ready to take the burden amid a charged political environment.
While legal experts say judiciary can’t be compelled to carry out the investigation through a judicial commission, the ToRs presented by the joint opposition have shifted the responsibility to investigate the matter to the judiciary.
The opposition has given three-month time to the proposed judicial commission to conclude its inquiry vis-a-vis involvement of Sharif family in the offshore investment scandal, it will be an uphill task for the commission to conduct a thorough investigation in this short period, considering they will have to look through transactions spanning decades and involving more than one country.
The stipulation of one year time for investigation into the affairs of people named in the Panama leaks other than the Sharif family has also raised many questions. The opposition has demanded that the special commission must be headed by the chief justice of Pakistan, with two other judges of the Supreme Court nominated by the chief justice as its members. If it comes true, the commission is bound to disband on the retirement of Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali in December this year, leaving the investigation process in limbo, at least for a while. Political observers believe that one-year time period by the opposition parties for investigation about people named by Panama Papers other than the Sharif family also depicts that they are hell-bent on the accountability of Sharif family only and are least bothered about others.

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