Opposition’s Panama Inquiry Bill Shot Down In NA

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ISLAMABAD:  After sailing through the Senate last December, the Panama Papers Inquiries Bill 2016 was ‘rejected’ by the National Assembly with a majority vote on Tuesday. The treasury benches opposed the bill moved by the Pakistan Peoples Party-Parliamentarians (PPPP) during the proceedings.

The PPPP failed to persuade the treasury benches to support the bill even though it had backing from another main opposition party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

The Panama Papers Inquiries Bill 2016 was moved by PPPP lawmaker Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho. The bill is aimed at constituting a commission to inquire the revelations made in the Panama Papers.

In support of the bill, PPPP’s Syed Naveed Qamar said, “Neither the National Accountability Bureau nor the Federal Investigation Agency pursued the 300 Pakistanis named in the Panama Papers.”

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“Whether there is something in the Panama Papers pertaining to the prime minister or not, the government is scared of it,” Qamar said. “Why do you not want investigation to take place?”

If a commission, like the proposed one, had been in place, then the apex court might have referred the investigation to it instead of referring it to a Joint Investigation Team, he added.

He asked the government to consider it before rejecting it straightaway as it could be beneficial if cases similar to the Panama Papers prop up in the future.

Supporting the bill, PTI’s Dr Shireen Mazari said, “It is a valid demand that everyone named in the Panama Papers should be investigated.”

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Jamaat-e-Islami’s Shair Akbar Khan also supported the bill.

Defending his party’s stance, Minister for Law Zahid Hamid said, “The bill, formulated by the opposition, is discriminatory in nature and is designed against the prime minister.”

Hamid said the Supreme Court had already given its decision over the issue.

He said the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Bill, 2016, passed by both the houses, will look into the investigation of other persons named in the Panama Papers.

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The PTI demanded to present the complete inquiry report into the Dawn Leaks before parliament. On a point of order, Mazari said, “National security issues have been settled behind the curtains without anybody knowing about the details.”

The corps commander and the interior minister should withdraw from their stand if it is not a matter of national security, she added. “Tariq Fatemi rejected the allegations levelled against him,” she said, asking if Dawn’s story was fake, then who planted it.

The National Assembly also passed a resolution condemning the recent killing of 14 labourers in Gwadar and Kharan. The resolution, moved by Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch, expressed heartfelt sympathies with the bereaved families.

It urged the federal and provincial governments to use all available resources to trace the culprits and bring them to justice.

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Earlier, responding to a calling attention notice, Minister of State for Capital Administration and Development Division Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhary said, “A survey is being carried out to assess the requirement of new schools in Islamabad.”

He said the enrolment ratio in the public sector schools has increased following the implementation of the prime minister’s Education Reforms Programme in Islamabad. He said evening classes have also started in order to accommodate maximum number of children in schools.

The house referred 12 private members’ bills to relevant standing committees, while it also unanimously passed the Senate Secretariat Services Bill, 2017 after reading it clause-by-clause.

Five bills were deferred and as many rejected, while three bills were withdrawn by their respective movers and one was dropped due to the mover’s absence.

 

Courtesy: Express Tribune

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