ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Wednesday termed the joint investigation team’s (JIT) accusations of record tampering against government institutions “a sign of [their] frustration”.
“The whole process is becoming suspicious; I don’t want to talk about it too much. I don’t know what frustration they wrote this in,” he told the National Assembly in reference to media reports that the investigators, in their report to the Supreme Court, had levelled allegations that certain institutions were creating obstructions and tampering with records.
Mr Dar’s doubts about the JIT constitute the first time a top figure from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has expressed doubts over the functioning of the JIT. Earlier, PML-N MNAs and junior ministers had been indirectly complaining about the behaviour of some of the investigators.
Earlier, Leader of the Opposition Syed Khurshid Shah and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) parliamentary leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi had alleged that the government was obstructing investigations against the prime minister and threatening JIT members.
The JIT had accused the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), the law ministry and Intelligence Bureau (IB) of creating obstructions in the handing over of records, and tampering with of relevant documents.
Opposition leader assails govt for having ‘no foreign policy’
Mr Dar, who is known as “de facto prime minister” in political circles due to his influence over Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, forcefully refuted the allegations that government institutions were forging or tampering with documents.
The minister said that he had never ordered institutions working under him to tamper with documents.
“On behalf of the PML-N, I assure [the house] that no obstacles are being created,” he said in response to opposition members who had accused the government of trying to save PM Sharif from accountability.
He advised the opposition members to patiently wait for the outcome of the Panama Papers investigation, adding that he did not want to discuss the issue any further, because it was a sub judice matter.
However, he expressed his doubts about the mechanism adopted by the JIT and questioned why the Supreme Court registrar had made WhatsApp calls to ask for the investigators’ nomination.
The finance minister was given the floor by Speaker Ayaz Sadiq to seek post-facto approval for over Rs310 billion in supplementary grants for FY2016-17. But during his speech, the entire opposition was camped out before him, in front of the speaker’s dais.
Speaking before him, the opposition leader reiterated his demand that the prime minister come to the house and brief lawmakers about the situation in the Gulf.
Mr Shah alleged that the government had no foreign policy at all, which was evident from the fact that the country had not yet come up with a clear stance over the decision of several Arab countries to sever ties with Qatar.
In his remarks, Mr Qureshi said the prime minister was appearing before the JIT at a time when the head of the team had alleged that investigators were feeling insecure and alleging that the Intelligence Bureau was hacking their Facebook accounts and phones.
Here, the speaker advised Mr Qureshi to be careful, as the matter was sub judice.
The PTI leader, however, could not continue his speech due to a noisy protest from the treasury benches. At this point, Mr Shah took the floor again and announced that they had no option but to lodge their protest over the absence of the prime minister.
Before staging the walkout, the opposition members planted themselves on the floor before the speaker’s dais and, with their back to Ayaz Sadiq, listened quietly to Mr Dar’s speech.
Following the approval of the supplementary budget, the speaker read out the president’s order, proroguing the house.