An opposition-backed bill in Pakistan seeking to establish a commission to inquire into the revelations made by the controversial Panama Papers, which suggest financial wrongdoings by Prime Minister Sharif and his family, prompted an exchange of harsh words in the Islamabad-based parliament this week.
The bill, officially known as the “Panama Papers Inquiries Act, 2016,” has already cleared the Senate.
However, the bill has now gone to the lower house, the National Assembly (NA), where it is expected to be rejected because the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party commands a majority there.
Members of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) opposition party reportedly disrupted an already heated debate in the lower house on Wednesday, ultimately forcing the speaker to adjourn until the next day.
GEO News reports:
A stormy NA session was in progress on Wednesday evening with lawmakers from treasury and opposition delivering fiery speeches on the Panama scandal, which has been haunting the Nawaz government for months now
The commotion reached its peaks as PTI members of the assembly gathered before the Speaker’s dais and tore copies of the agenda apart. They vehemently chanted slogans against the government, effectively making it impossible for proceedings to continue.
The disorderly conduct continued on Thursday.
Chaos “erupted soon after PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi stood up to address the speaker,” reports Dawn. “The PTI leader requested Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend the next session and clarify his position.”
Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique, a member of the ruling party, referred to PTI lawmakers as “hooligans,” angering the various lawmakers from the opposition.
“Ministry of Railways referred to our protest yesterday as noise by ‘PTI’s hooligans.’ This is all on record and it’s all over the news,” noted the veteran PTI leader Qureshi.
“You’re used to terrible accident on the railways. If this misbehavior continues, a parliamentary accident will also occur, one that hasn’t been witnessed before,” he said, addressing Rafique.
The railways minister explained that his comments came in response to PTI lawmakers using abusive language against PM Sharif and Speaker Ayaz Sadiq.
“I take my words back,” declared Rafique, adding, “Criticize us as much as you want. But please do not use expletives, threatening words against us.”
The PML-N minister suggested that the Panama Papers issue should be left up to the courts to probe.
Dawn reports, “The PML-N minister clarified that the ruling party will not settle the matter of Panama Papers till a verdict is announced by the Supreme Court, as they do not want to approach the 2018 general elections under the shadow of the controversy.”
The PTI wants to uncover “the lies Prime Minister told the Parliament,” the party’s leader Qureshi told reporters, adding, “There is discrepancy in what the Prime Minister said in the Parliament and in his replies to the Supreme Court. We want clarification on this.”
In early April, a massive leak of documents from the Panamanian Mossack Fonseca law firm in exposed financial wrongdoings by PM Sharif, his family, and other politicians that opposition parties in Islamabad argued should be investigated.
Besides the establishment of a commission to investigate the disclosures in the Panama Papers, the bill reportedly calls “for a uniform, fair, non-discriminatory and transparent process of inquiry into the means by which the Panama-related properties, assets and interests were acquired by all Pakistani nationals thus named (in the Panama Leaks) and their families.”
Various opposition politicians 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.
Sharif himself was not identified as an owner of any of the shell companies or properties. Nevertheless, the opposition demanded a probe into corruption allegations against the embattled PM and his family in the wake of the Panama Papers leak.
The Sharif administration has defended the PM children’s ownership of offshore companies, denying any allegations of money laundering and signaling a willingness to allow an inquiry into the claims