Pakistan’s opposition has rejected the judicial commission announced by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to probe allegations that his family owned offshore companies and concealed foreign assets, triggering a war of words on Wednesday.
Sharif said during a televised address on Tuesday night the commission will be headed by a former judge. On Wednesday, it was announced the panel’s terms of reference will include allegations against all Pakistanis, not just Sharif’s family.
More than 200 Pakistanis figure in the Panama Papers, including lawyers, lawmakers and some people linked to the judiciary.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan, who has led the charge against Sharif since the Panama Papers leaks revealed the premier’s family owned offshore firms, rejected the commission.
“A number of judicial commissions have been appointed in the past and nothing has come out of them,” he told the media. “This is all an eye wash.”
The Pakistan People’s Party described Sharif’s address as “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, Sharif resorted to a blame game against PPP leaders,” PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar said in a statement.
Imran Khan also said the charges against Sharif’s family should be investigated by the National Accountability Bureau, the country’s anti-graft watchdog.
Information minister Pervaiz Rashid, a close aide of the premier, alleged that Khan too was guilty of channelling funds abroad through his charitable cancer hospital. Rashid told reporters in Islamabad that details of funds stashed abroad by others will be presented by the government to the judicial commission.
Sharif has said he wants people levelling allegations against his family to appear before the commission and record their statements.
He said his son’s Hassan and Hussain Nawaz had been living in London and Saudi Arabia since 1994 and 2000. “Both of my sons have been working under the legal ambit and rules and regulations of (these) countries,” he said.
In a related development, former interior minister Rehman Malik claimed the Panama Papers were “a RAW conspiracy”. He alleged the papers were part of an “international conspiracy” hatched by RAW to “make fun of Pakistan”.
Another person who created a flutter by speaking out was Tehmina Durrani, the sister-in-law of Nawaz Sharif. Durrani is married to Sharif’s brother, Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif.
Durrani called on the Sharif family to bring back its offshore wealth to Pakistan to clear its name. “Only way to clear Sharif name is to keep minimum, simplify life drastically, return all foreign and local wealth to the nation,” she tweeted.