- PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan and PTI’s Qureshi say there is no point in sitting through the sessions as the govt has no intention of reaching a settlement
- Opposition accuses govt of trying to give legal cover to offshore holdings of PM’s family through amendments in Income Tax Law
Deadlock persisted after another meeting of the Parliamentary Committee over the Terms of Reference (TORs) for the judicial commission to probe Panama Papers and there were calls from some opposition quarters to boycott the committee as they feel that the government is stringing them along but has no intention of reaching a compromise.
The government and opposition members once again met on Friday to discuss the TORs. The 15-day deadline earlier imposed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to finalise the TOR has already passed. Chances of a compromise appear to be dimming with each meeting. The committee will, however, meet again on Tuesday at 3 pm.
Speaking to media after the session Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) stalwart Aitzaz Ahsan said that the session seemed like a mere formality. “The deadlock on the TORs persists,” he said.
PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that there is no point in sitting through the sessions. “The government is not interested in probing the Panama Leaks. I will advise other parliamentarians to boycott the session too.”
Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Aitzaz Ahsan met after the session and decided that a joint opposition session would be called in the next two days, a source said.
Opposition had hinted earlier that it would continue participating in the parliamentary committee only if the government came out with a positive response.
THE GOVT MAY MAKE THE WHOLE THING LEGAL, HERE’S HOW:
In the last meeting, the opposition registered a strong protest on the government’s move to provide legal cover to undeclared wealth held through foreign trusts by Pakistani individuals.
It is to be mentioned that in the Finance Bill 2016-17, amendments were proposed to Clause 23 of the Income Tax Ordinance which would provide legal cover to undeclared wealth held through foreign trusts by Pakistani individuals.
The opposition had registered its reservation on the proposed amendments to clause 23 during the proceedings of the committee. The opposition cast a shadow on the government intentions stating that on the one hand they were participating in meetings to draft the TORs, while on the other, the government was in the process of giving a clean chit to the family of the prime minister by making amendments to the Income Tax laws in the Finance Act, 2016.
“If the government managed to get approval from the National Assembly of its proposed amendment to the Income Tax law, the family of the prime minister would automatically get a clean chit that would legalise their offshore business and the Parliamentary Committee’s task would become meaningless.”
However, according to sources, if the government keeps stonewalling the opposition, the opposition may withdraw from the Parliamentary Committee. In the sixth meeting held last Tuesday, the opposition members circulated a document titled “Terms of Reference (as proposed by the government and amended by the opposition)”.
During the discussion, the government members pointed out a substantial difference between the TORs circulated by the government and the ones circulated by the opposition. The government members suggested that an opportunity might be given to review the document circulated by the opposition and consult among themselves and they would respond on Friday.