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Pakistan: Opposition Party Calls for Military Probe into Panama Papers

Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), a small right-wing opposition party, has reportedly demanded that the Pakistani Army lead the investigation into corruption allegations against embattled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family highlighted in the Panama Papers leak.

DAWN reports:

At a rally outside the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Press Club on Sunday, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) started a campaign against the PML-N [Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz] led government in relation to the Panama Papers leaks and demanded that an organization be established which will work under the Pakistan Army to probe corruption charges against the prime minister and his family.

The protest, which started at the press club and then progressed on to Liaquat Bagh, was attended by some 450 people and was led by PAT district president Sultan Naeem Kayani. Protesters chanted slogans against the government and demanded a probe against the ruling elite.

PAT and other opposition parties argue that a massive leak of documents from the Panamanian Mossack Fonseca law firm in early April has exposed financial wrongdoings by PM Sharif, his family, and other politicians that should be investigated.

Although several opposition parties have agreed to investigate all politicians named in the documents, known as the Panama Papers, they insist that as Pakistan’s leader, Sharif should be probed first, reports DAWN.

PAT’s Sultan Naeem Kayani reportedly said at the rally:

If a probe into the allegations in the Panama Papers is done by an organization which works under the army, then the prime minister does not need to resign. However, if another organization is probing into the matter, then the prime minister should resign before the investigation starts.

“The ruling elite should be answerable to the people about the money generated from [the public’s resources] and about how that money ended up abroad,” he added.

DAWN quoted Kayani as saying that “it is now time to clean corruption and incompetence from the country’s politics.”

Opposition politicians, including PAT leader and Islamic cleric Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, have urged Sharif to resign after the Panama Papers revealed that three of his children controlled offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands, through which they owned half a dozen expensive residential properties in London.

The Pakistani PM himself was not identified as an owner of any of the shell companies or properties.

Various news outlets report that the Sharif administration has defended his children’s ownership of offshore companies, denying any allegations of money laundering and signaling a willingness to allow an inquiry into the claims.

The Los Angeles Times notes:

While analysts said that maintaining offshore bank accounts may be legal under Pakistani laws, the practice could expose the country’s wealthy political elite to fresh allegations of corruption and money laundering in a country in which more than half the people live on less than $2 a day.

Sharif was one of several world leaders named in the documents, which made waves around the world after an anonymous source first leaked them to the Munich-based Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, which shared them with other international media outlets.

Several of those news outlets, in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, published reports on the documents.

The Canada-based leader of PAT, Dr. Qadri, has led anti-government protests against the Sharif administration that have resulted in deadly clashes between protesters and police. PAT has accused the Sharif government of corruption since it was elected, and called on the PM to resign.

In an address to the nation in late April, PM Sharif said he would resign if he is proven guilty of any wrongdoing by an investigation into the Panama Papers allegation.

“I challenge all those who allege tax fraud to come forward and present evidence. If charges are proved against me, I will resign immediately,” Sharif reportedly vowed.

He noted that his administration has appointed a judicial commission to probe the Panama Papers-linked allegations against his family and him, adding that his government will abide by the commission’s recommendations.

However, Rana Idrees, chief of the Minhaj-ul-Quran chapter in north Punjab, reportedly said, “A Supreme Court judge with limited powers will not be able to do justice with the case.”

Minhaj-ul-Quran is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) founded by PAT leader Dr. Qadri.

DAWN quoted PAT district chapter’s general secretary Aqil Satti as saying that the “accountability bureau or an organization working under the Pakistan Army should hold the political elite to account and that this will also be accepted by the people.”

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