Monday September 25, 2023

Investigating Pandora

By Editorial Board
October 06, 2021

The Pandora pandemonium is likely to rage for a while. The government wants NAB to handle the cases of cabinet members whereas the opposition is demanding removal of those from the cabinet who directly or indirectly appear in the Pandora Papers. The charges are serious as corruption, money laundering, and tax evasion have all been cited as possible reasons for setting up the offshore companies. In addition to NAB, the government wants the FIA and FBR to investigate such cases. Prime Minister Imran Khan has formed a ‘high-powered’ cell to investigate if any irregularities have been committed by the Pakistanis named in the Pandora Papers which names federal cabinet members, politicians, retired generals, business owners and others as having established offshore companies. But the response by the government appears to be ambiguous regarding federal ministers and some prominent leaders of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Before assuming power in 2018, the stated position of the PTI and its leaders was that if a charge is leveled against any government members they must submit their resignations pending all investigations, but now the PM has not asked any of the cabinet members to quit before clearing themselves. It is surprising that the PM is considering Law Minister Farogh Naseem to head the investigation cell that would also comprise FIA, FBR, and NAB officials. Though the terms of reference of the cell are not clear as yet, the composition of the cell makes it controversial even before it begins to investigate.

The investigation cell formed under the PM’s Inspection Commission is not likely to enjoy an undisputed reputation as a neutral and transparent body. The promise to ‘place facts before the nation’ is not substantiated by the track record over three years in power. The same applies to NAB and other bodies that come under the government’s purview. The investigation needs to be above board and beyond the shadow of a doubt. Though establishing offshore firms is not a crime, the gravity of the matter demands that in line with the PM’s drive against corruption, all associated members of the cabinet should cease to hold office pending thorough investigation by an independent cell or commission comprising members of impeccable integrity. After that, what is important is what emerges from these interviews and if any case of distinct wrongdoing is uncovered. Papers such as the Pandora leaks always create a huge surge of activity and apprehension or acceleration, as the case may be. This is also why unless there is investigative transparency, there can be no faith in the findings.