–Info minister claims privilege motion is against constitution, NA speaker says it’s in accordance with rules
–Asad Umar says 444 Pakistanis were named in Panama papers, notices have been issued to 294 of them
ISLAMABAD: The opposition on Friday moved a privilege motion in the National Assembly (NA), accusing National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Lahore Director General (DG) Saleem Shahzad of holding “media trials” on different news channels.
Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) Spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb informed the House that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has also joined the motion “in writing”, adding that the motion had been signed by Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif.
According to the motion, the NAB director general has appeared on different news channels with the consent of the NAB chairman, and discussed matters that were sub-judice on national television. It added that Shahzad “maligned the reputation of opposition” in NA.
“Shahzad appeared on ‘Dunya Kamran Khan Kay Sath’ on Dunya News, ‘Off The Record’ on ARY News, ‘Nadeem Malik Live’ on Hum News, ‘Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath’ on Geo News, and ‘Awaz’ on Samaa TV over the last two days.”
Accusing Shahzad of revealing sensitive information, the notice urged the House to look into the matter on a priority basis.
In a controversial statement, the NAB Lahore director general had said that the accountability watchdog will file a reference against the opposition leader by the end of the month, and accused his son-in-law Ali Imran of “depositing official cheques in his personal bank account”.
He had added that a probe was underway against provincial minister Aleem Khan and there was a possibility that Chaudhry brothers and Moonis Elahi could also be taken into custody.
During the session chaired by NA Speaker Asad Qaiser, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi accused Shahzad of having a fake degree and seconded the motion’s claim. He added that accountability shouldn’t be done by such people.
Responding to the opposition’s move, Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry claimed that a privilege motion has no constitutional legitimacy, accusing the opposition parties of trying to influence ongoing investigations against its members.
“If they expect that they will be treated differently than the rest of the population, then, they are wrong,” he added.
The information minister alleged that Shehbaz, who is currently part of an investigation pertaining to the Ashiana housing scheme scam by NAB, initiated the “media trial” in the House last month.
He added that the sanctity of the House prevented discussion on sub-judice matters. However, the NA speaker clarified that a privilege motion does not violate rules and that he will seek legal counsel in the mater.
The session was adjourned for an indefinite period of time.
UMAR ISSUES CLARIFICATION ON PANAMA INVESTIGATION:
Meanwhile in a written response, Finance Minister Asad Umar set aside the opposition’s accusations that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has failed to take action against the Pakistanis named in the Panama Papers.
This justification came after opposition member Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali alleged that the government had failed to hold the people responsible, demanding a response on the matter.
Umar informed the House that 444 Pakistanis have been named in the papers, and notices had been issued to 294 of them under the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001.
He added that 150 named for ownership of offshore assets “could not be traced due to incomplete information” while 12 of them were dead.
The finance minister added that charges against four were dropped since they have revoked Pakistani citizenship, and audit proceedings have been finalised in 13 cases.
“36 cases are being heard and 242 cases are being pursued for initiating proceedings.”
The finance minister revealed that a “demand of Rs10.9bn [had] been created” out of which Rs6.2bn have been recovered.
He ended on the note that the Federal Bureau of Revenue had not filed any petition in this regard with the Supreme Court.