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November 25, 2017



NAB set to extend probe into Panama Papers beyond Sharifs

ISLAMABAD: NAB is likely to initiate a probe into the offshore companies named in the Panama Papers. Initial discussions within NAB in respect to the apex court’s latest intervention into the matter have taken place, and there appears to be a consensus developing that NAB should look into the entire case of Panama Papers concerning Pakistan.

“The decision is expected to be taken any time,” a senior NAB official told this correspondent when approached on Friday to know how the Bureau will respond to the Supreme Court’s of late notice seeking report from the anti-corruption body on action taken against 436 Pakistanis named in the Panama Papers.

On Thursday last, a two-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal, conducted a hearing on petitions filed by Jamaat-i-Islami chief Senator Sirajul Haq and Advocate Tariq Asad, which seek action against all those named in the Panama Papers. The SC issued notices to NAB and the government to know what action they had taken against those Pakistanis named in the Panama Papers.

The NAB management under its recently appointed chairman was already considering opening a probe into the entire Panama Papers disclosures regarding Pakistanis, when the Jamaat chief and Advocate Tariq approached the apex court with the request that the Panama probe be extended beyond the Nawaz Sharif family to all those named.

A few weeks back, Chairman NAB Justice Javed Iqbal told this correspondent that he was studying the cases of offshore companies to see what wrong had been done. The chairman was of the view that the mere opening of an offshore company was not an illegality but what needed to be seen was that who had misused such companies. He said that NAB has to first determine what crime has been committed.

Although, the Panama Papers had named over 400 Pakistanis owning offshore companies, during the last one and a half year only the case of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his children has been probed following the orders of the apex court.

In April last year, the ICIJ had revealed names throughout the world, including those of Pakistani politicians, businessmen, bankers as well as a serving high court judge and a retired judge, who were reported to have offshore companies. Over 400 Pakistanis were identified in the Panama Papers to have offshore companies.

Following the disclosures of the ICIJ, neither NAB nor FIA had shown any interest to probe the matter. This indifference on the part of the top two anti-corruption state institutions led to some of the political parties approaching the apex court to get the matter probed.

Different petitions were filed including some demanding the probe against all those named in the offshore companies, however the SC chose to take up the case of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his children only. A JIT was also constituted to probe the Sharifs, which led to Nawaz Sharif disqualification and consequent ouster from the office of the prime minister.

During the hearing of the Panama case and even after Nawaz Sharifs disqualification, one of the petitioners -- Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq -- has been demanding of the apex court to try all those who have offshore companies abroad.

After the PanamaLeaks, The News also unearthed the offshore companies of PTI chief Imran Khan and his key lieutenant Jahangir Tareen against whom the PML-N had also filed a petition in the apex court. The SC has recently reserved its judgement in the Khan and Tareen cases. However, all others named in the Panama Papers remain untouched.