ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Wednesday said the government had contacted senior former judges of the apex court, including former chief justices, to head the inquiry commission that will probe the Sharif family post-Panama data leaks.
Nisar read out five names of former Supreme Court justices – Justice Nasirul Mulk, Justice Tasadiq Jilani, Justice Amirul Mulk Mengal, Justice Sahir Ali and Justice Tanvir Ahmad Khan – all of whom he said had been contacted by the government to head the Panama Papers probe.
“But all of these judges after taking the time to think over the matter, refused to lead the commission without giving any reasons,” said the interior minister.
“If the government was not interested in transparency, why would we go ahead and request these renowned judges to lead the investigation?”
But, he lamented, the political scenario in the wake of the data leaks means these former judges are reluctant to become part of the probe.
Nisar heavily criticised all opposition figures who he said were resorting to “cheap tactics” to gain political mileage.
“Inhumane criticism for political point scoring should be abandoned.”
Nisar revealed that the Prime Minister has been facing heart problems for the past many years which have exacerbated in the past two to three months.
“He had taken time from doctors earlier as well, but he could not attend his appointments. The PM had on my advice agreed to go on a separate visit for medical treatment, and he agreed to that. Full-time bed rest was advised and thus the stopover in Moscow instead of a direct flight.”
“All of us [at the airport this morning] were in agreement that he should return as soon as doctors advised.”
“If the PM wanted an excuse to leave the country, he could have gone to attend the OIC conference in Turkey and gone to London from there,” said Nisar.
“On my advice, he scheduled a separate visit just for medical treatment.”
The data leak has revealed financial wheelings and dealings of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family, among dozens of others, including world leaders.
The data from the Panama Papers, available on the website of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists — one of around 100 news organisations and 300 journalists that worked on mining the data simultaneously — also reveals the offshore holdings of members of Prime Minister Sharif’s family.
According to documents available on the ICIJ website, the PM’s children Mariam, Hasan and Hussain “were owners or had the right to authorise transactions for several companies”.
Mariam is described as “the owner of British Virgin Islands-based firms Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited, incorporated in 1994 and 1993”.
On one of the documents released by ICIJ, the address listed for Nielsen Enterprises is Saroor Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The document, dated June 2012, describes Mariam Safdar as the ‘beneficial owner’.
According to ICIJ, “Hussain and Mariam signed a document dated June 2007 that was part of a series of transactions in which Deutsche Bank Geneva lent up to $13.8 million to Nescoll, Nielsen and another company, with their London properties as collateral.”
Hasan Nawaz Sharif is described as “the sole director of Hangon Property Holdings Limited incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in February 2007, which acquired Liberia-based firm Cascon Holdings Establishment Limited for about $11.2 million in August 2007”.
But the papers are not necessarily evidence of wrongdoing. According to The Guardian, using offshore structures is entirely legal.