Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman, Nisar Muhammad Khan and treasury lawmakers on Thursday successfully blocked a fifth attempt by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance to get an institutional response to Panama gate. Striking calls for an independent inquiry into Panama gate have fallen on deaf ears as the government continues to avoid meaningful action on the revelations in the Panama Papers.
Panama Papers includes the names of hundreds of Pakistani politicians, including the ruling Sharif family, and businessmen feature in the offshore archive.
Denmark is learnt to have bought data from the Panama leaks to investigate whether 500 to 600 Danes named there may have evaded tax.
Not only that, the heads of four state institutions – National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) – skipped a special session of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the massive tax evasion scandal.
According to Chaudhary Pervaiz Elahi, “The absence of NAB, FIAM SBP and SECP Chiefs is a planned move, and government is behind it
Earlier, The FBR chairman refused to give a briefing to the parliamentary panel on the pretext that the matter was not on its agenda. The committee has been seeking a briefing from the FBR for the last five months to identify legal lacunae that allowed the illegal capital flight from the country.
Only last week, the FBR issued letters to those who figured in the Panama leaks to seek information, which, legal experts say, was not a serious action. The SECP has identified 444 persons named in the Panama Papers, but has excused itself from taking any action.
Opposition legislators blamed Qaiser Sheikh the PAC chairman who belongs to the PML-N, for not putting the issue on the agenda. Nisar, on the other hand, admitted that he was prepared to give a briefing to the PAC, which met on the same day, but even the parliamentary anti-corruption watchdog could not debate the issue due to the absence of the heads of NAB, FIA, SBP and SECP.
Government institutions are not performing their roles due to Panama scam, PTI MNA
“Government institutions are not performing their roles due to the involvement of the Sharif family in the panama scam” said PTI MNA Dr Arif Alvi, who had requisitioned the special PAC huddle.
When PAC members asked why the SBP governor did not attend the panel meeting, they were told the head of the central bank was busy in connection with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Karachi.
At this, panel chairman Khursheed Shah of the PPP said the SBP should have informed PAC beforehand and not on the meeting day.
Though the SECP gave the same excuse as the SBP, the committee got no answers about the absence of others.
The NAB chief also informed PAC of his unavailability. “Did the FIA director general also receive a call from the premier,” asked the PAC members.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had promised that a legal package to address the Panama Papers issue will be announced by August in consultation with FBR, SBP and SECP. He also could not fulfill this promise.