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Monday July 22, 2024

Supreme Court seeks arguments over formation of Panama leaks panel

Country's top court questioned the plea seeking the constitution of a Judicial Commission for probing the 436 Pakistanis accused of setting up offshore companies in tax havens

By Sohail Khan
June 10, 2023
Supreme Court of Pakistan. The SCP website
Supreme Court of Pakistan. The SCP website

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday questioned the plea seeking the constitution of a Judicial Commission for probing the 436 Pakistanis accused of setting up offshore companies in tax havens. 

A two-member bench of the apex court comprising Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Aminuddin Khan heard the petition of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Ameer Sirajul Haq praying for directing the Federation to initiate an inquiry into the Panama Leaks. The court sought arguments on the formation of JC and adjourned the hearing for a month.

During the course of hearing, advocate Ishtiaq, representing the JI, pleaded for constituting a JC for probing the matter. Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, however, questioned that in the presence of investigating agencies, how the court could constitute a JC for probing the matter. “Do you expect the court to do everything, shutting down the relevant state institutions,” the judge asked the counsel.The judge noted that in the presence of FBR, State Bank and investigating agencies like FIA and NAB, how could the court constitute a JC. “You cannot bypass the law”, the judge further told the lawyer, adding that the instant matter had been pending in the apex court for the past seven years during which the petitioner expressed no interest but now realised that it’s a public interest case.

Justice Masood observed that at that time the case was running only against one family, adding that both the cases were the same. “Why you did not raise the issue before the court that it’s a public interest case, hence it should be heard simultaneously,” the judge asked the lawyer. “Did you have to run a case against just one family? You had no interest in this case for the past seven years.”The justice further asked the lawyer why he had “delinked his petition” and why he had “not taken such a big relief from the five-member bench” that was previously hearing the case in 2017. Justice Masood said, “It appears as though something else is cooking here”. Justice Sardar Tariq Masood recalled that in the year 2017, a five-member bench of the apex court had declared the Panama case admissible. The judge asked the JI counsel whether he approached NAB, FIA and anti-corruption institutions in this regard. The judge noted that how the court could initiate an inquiry against 436 persons without issuing notices to them. “There might be some businessmen in these 436 persons and whether you want them to flee,” the judge asked the counsel.

“Establishing offshore company was not a crime but what has to be reviewed as to how that company was formed,” the judge remarked.

The court urged the petitioners to approach the relevant authorities instead while seeking further replies from the JI. The JI lawyer then sought more time from the court to prepare. Subsequently, the proceedings were adjourned for one month.