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Monday November 29, 2021

PM forms committee to probe Pandora Papers leaks

An initial report related to the matter was presented to the premier, sources say; over 700 Pakistanis have been named in papers

By Web Desk
October 04, 2021
Prime Minister Imran Khan (C) attends an event after planting a tree during his visit to inspect the progress of 10 Billion Tree Tsunami campaign in Makhniyal area of Haripur district, in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on May 27, 2021. — AFP/File
Prime Minister Imran Khan (C) attends an event after planting a tree during his visit to inspect the progress of 10 Billion Tree Tsunami campaign in Makhniyal area of Haripur district, in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on May 27, 2021. — AFP/File

Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry said Monday Prime Minister Imran Khan has formed a special, high-level cell to probe the Pandora Papers exposé. 

A huge tranche of leaked data on offshore companies — larger in size and scope than the Panama Papers — hit the global headlines Sunday night, laying bare the financial secrets of the global rich and powerful.

The investigation revealed that the prime minister's cabinet members, financiers, retired generals, media owners, and businessmen have offshore companies.

"The prime minister has set up a high-level cell under the Prime Minister's Inspection Commission to investigate the Pandora leaks, which will present the facts before the nation," the information minister said.

The development comes after PM Imran Khan held a meeting to discuss the leaks and the overall country's political situation, with senior PTI leaders and federal ministers in attendance, sources said.

An initial report related to the matter was presented to the premier after which the participants of the meeting briefed him on the actions that are being considered against the Pakistanis named in the Pandora Papers leak, sources said.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and other bodies have been tasked to probe the matter, sources said, with the prime minister instructing to present the facts of the investigation before the nation.

The names of more than 700 Pakistanis have been discovered in the data and the majority of them are tax residents in the country. A veritable Pandora’s box of information has been opened, releasing unending trouble and woes for those named.

The Pandora Papers had revealed that several Pakistani politicians — including Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, Minister for Water Resources Moonis Elahi, PTI's Senator Faisal Vawda, son of PML-N's Ishaq Dar, PPP’s Sharjeel Memon, the family of Minister for Industries and Production Khusro Bakhtiar, and PTI leader Abdul Aleem Khan, among others — have alleged links to offshore companies.

The Pandora Papers have unmasked the fortunes of more than 330 public officials in 90 countries. Included among them are 35 current and former leaders of different countries.

The king of Jordan, the rulers of Qatar and Dubai, presidents of Ukraine, Kenya, and Ecuador, the prime ministers of the Czech Republic and Lebanon, and former British prime minister Tony Blair, all appear in the secret files.

The International Consortium of Investigative (ICIJ) received more than 11.9 million documents containing 2.94 terabytes worth of confidential information from service providers who helped set up and manage offshore companies and trusts in tax havens around the world.

The ICIJ shared the data with 150 media organisations and has led the broadest collaboration in journalism history. It took the ICIJ almost two years to organise the investigation that involved more than 600 journalists in 117 countries, making it the biggest-ever journalism partnership.

By comparison, the Pandora Papers investigation is bigger in size, and revelations about politicians and public officials are also far more than what previously came to public attention through Panama Papers.

Opposition slams premier

Responding to the development, PML-N Secretary-General Ahsan Iqbal said the Pandora leaks have "opened a new Pandora's box" against PM Imran Khan.

"That leader who used to present himself as sadiq (honest) and ameen (trustworthy), has two more offshore companies," PML-N's secretary-general said while speaking to media in Narowal.

The PML-N stalwart said that even before the Pandora Papers were released, government spokespersons had started defending PM Imran Khan.

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman, in a tweet, said she was not surprised that the premier's close aides were named in the Pandora Papers.

"We all know that slogans of corruption, free Pakistan, and accountability are all hollow and a way to target the opposition," the PPP leader said.

"Will the prime minister go to the Supreme Court against his people? Or will a report be called for like in other scandals?" Rehman asked.