The Pandora Papers have revealed the inner workings of a shadow economy that benefits the wealthy and well-connected. Two years long research by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has uncovered financial secrets of 35 current and former world leaders, more than 330 politicians and public officials in 91 countries and territories, and a global lineup of fugitives, con artists and murderers besides a top sportsman and a world-famous singer.
The list does not include the name of PM Imran Khan, a fact that the PTI spokesmen continue to underline. The list, however, contains the names of some of the key members of his inner circle, including cabinet ministers, their families, major financial backers and political allies. A number of high-ranking ex-servicemen and their relatives also find mention in the list. PM Khan has promised a thorough investigation into all citizens mentioned in Pandora Papers and an appropriate action in case wrongdoing is established against any one of them.
Mr Khan has over the years conducted a campaign against those accused of sending the country’s looted wealth abroad and appealed to countries to return the money. Last year, addressing a UN FACTI panel, he noted that $7 trillion in stolen assets is parked in safe tax havens. Reacting to the publication of Pandora Papers he has called on the international community to treat this grave injustice similar to the climate change crisis.
On account of the complexity and secrecy of the offshore system, it’s not possible to know how much of that wealth is tied to tax evasion and other crimes and how much of it involves funds that come from legitimate sources and have been reported to proper authorities. What is needed therefore is to avoid mudslinging or spreading fake news. The matter must be probed justly and in a transparent manner. What needs to be determined is whether the money was earned through legal means, whether taxes had been paid and whether the money was sent abroad through legal means. Anyone, civilian or ex-serviceman, belonging to the ruling party or opposition found guilty should then be taken to court and awarded punishment in accordance with the law.