• ToRs committee meeting ends in deadlock
ISLAMABAD: Parliamentary committee on Panama Papers investigation met here Friday to formally discuss Terms of References for proposed commission, but the meeting ended in a deadlock as government and opposition members differed over exclusion of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's name.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, opposition leaders Senator Aitzaz Ahsan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the talks did not make any headway due to deadlock.
Aitzaz Ahsan dismissed media reports that opposition has agreed to exclude Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's name from the inquiry.
"Media reports are baseless that we (opposition) have agreed to exclude prime minister's name, I clarify that no such proposal or offer for immunity to PM is agreed upon," said Aitzaz Ahsan, who is a senior PPP leader, accompanied by other committee members.
He said the PM should face accountability as guardian of his children who have featured in Panama Papers. "We are convinced that the accountability should begin from Nawaz Sharif's family."
He said the opposition presented its 15 questions in today's meeting, but the government side did not completely agreed. "Our ToRs are comprehensive and we will remain stick to our 15 questions."
Aitzaz Ahsan also that dismissed impression of differences among opposition parties, saying that "we all are united and will not succumb to pressure."
On the occasion, Qureshi said that the two sides did not move ahead even a single inch. "Neither had we moved ahead a single inch nor the opposition is going to back down a single inch," he asserted.
"We will do a complete accord not partial," Qureshi said, and warned that if government did not accept the 15 points the opposition would refuse all preambles discussed in previous meetings.
In its second meeting yesterday, the committee agreed in principle on preamble of the ToRs.
The committee comprises six members each from government and opposition.
The opposition is represented by Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif, Senator Ilyas Ahmad Bilour, MNAs Tariq Bashir Cheema, Sahibzada Tariqullah and Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
The government is represented by Senator Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Asif, Khawaja Saad Rafiq and Mr Bizenjo attended the meeting from the government side. Anusha Rehman and Akram Khan Durrani.
Aitzaz Ahsan offered an explanation to his previous statement of being willing to omit Prime Minister' name from investigation of Panama leaks involving his family.
According to Ahsan, the joint opposition has defined 'family' in the proposed Terms of References. In opposition's view, investigation of accused person's family will include his parents, spouse, children, and grandchildren.
Clearing out the confusion, Ahsan said that Nawaz Sharif's name, written separately in the proposed TORs will be deleted but investigation would start with his family.
Hussain Nawaz and Maryam Safdar were named by Panama Papers for owning offshore companies, he said adding that premier's name, individually, would be deleted but would remain there indirectly because of the relation with Hussain and Maryam.
The opposition has offered to negotiate two of the 15 Terms of References however, probe of Nawaz Sharif s family would be concluded in three months, he added while talking to the media in Parliament House.
On the other hand, spokesperson for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Naeemul Haq opposed Aitzaz Ahsan's statement saying that opposition parties have not reached a consensus over premier's name exclusion.
Confusion was observed among different sections after Ahsan's previous statement in which he accepted to exclude Nawaz Sharif's name to propose more issue-specific demands as called by the government.
Panama Papers had released data of a law firm, Mossack Fonseca which was leaked by an anonymous source. The data was studied by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and then published with related documents.
Around 140 leaders of the world were named in the leaks for owning offshore companies however, Nawaz Sharif was alleged by the opposition to have established the shell entities to evade taxes and stash money in banks abroad.
A parliamentary committee was formed with consensus of the government and the opposition to put together joint ToRs aiming at probe of the leaks.
Meanwhile, The Parliamentary Committee on Panama Papers earlier continued discussion of the Terms of Reference proposed by the Government and Opposition.
The Government Committee members' response to the Opposition members' document titled "Government's Para-wise reply to Joint Opposition's submission on ToRs dated May 26, 2016" was circulated by the Government side among the members of the Committee.
The Government side also circulated among the members a document mentioning relevant legal provisions/comments relating to the fifteen questions contained in the said Joint Opposition's ToRs. The Committee agreed to continue its discussion on the Terms of Reference in subsequent meetings.
The Opposition Members stated that they had proposed to drop Question Nos. (xii) and (xiii) subject to the acceptance of the remaining thirteen questions by the Government members.
The fifteen questions proposed by the Joint Opposition were discussed. The Government members did not accept these in the present form and proposed to submit re-articulated/fresh proposals. - NNI

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