ISLAMABAD (Staff Report) – In his address to the National Assembly on the Panama Papers today (Monday), Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif rejected allegations of money laundering and tax evasion that were leveled at him after his family was mentioned in the Panama leaks last month for owning offshore companies.
PM Nawaz and his family have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, saying the assets mentioned in the leaked papers were legally acquired through the family’s network of businesses and industries in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.
The Prime Minister presented details of the taxes paid by himself and his family since 1985.
“Our family has paid Rs. 10 billion in taxes over the past 23 years,” he said. “I have also personally paid Rs. 36 million in income tax,” he added.
The Leader of the Opposition in the House, Syed Khurshid Shah was supposed to address the NA after the PM’s address; however, he only gave a brief address and declined to give a detailed response, saying that the PM’s address failed to answer the 7 questions put forward by the Opposition.
“We presented seven simple questions and we wanted their clarification to be that simple as well. But the prime minister has increased our questions from seven to 70,” he said.
Earlier, the opposition parties staged a walk-out from both Houses of Parliament after the Prime Minister postponed his address to Parliament, first scheduled on Friday and then postponed to Monday (today) to allow for an official trip to Tajikistan for the inauguration of the CASA-1000 power project, in addition to a personal trip to Turkey to attend the wedding ceremony of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s daughter.
Parliamentary Committee proposed to finalize ToR’s for judicial probe into Panama leaks
The Prime Minister proposed the formation of a parliamentary committee to finalize ToR’s for the formation of a judicial commission to investigate into the allegations of money laundering and tax evasion leveled against the Prime Minister and his family after publication of the Panama Papers.
Formation of comprehensive and effective new system of accountability
He asked the Parliament to consider a comprehensive and effective system of accountability, suggesting that Parliament should review the shortcomings of the existing system and devise a system that holds trust of the entire nation.
“When politicians are defamed, democracy too gets defamed. Since this matter has come to the fore, it should be resolved once and for all.” he added.
Family has lost more from entering politics than it has gained; made all wealth through legal business
Nawaz Sharif said that his family was probably the only family in Pakistan which had lost more from entering politics than it had gained.
He referred to the nationalization of his family businesses, including the Ittefaq Foundries, during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s tenure in power, which had cost his family great financial losses.
“When the foundry was nationalized in the late 1970’s, it was making an annual profit of Rs. 40 million,” he explained. “However, when its control was returned to us, it was making a loss of Rs. 60 million annually.”
“My father, through his hardwork, was able to return the business to its profitable position within a few years,” he added.
Indicted before formation of judicial commission
The Prime Minister claimed that he and his family were indicted by the opposition even before the formation of the judicial commission to probe the allegations against them.
He said that he had always presented himself before accountability and would do so again. He provided details of how his family was able to buy flats in London and set up industries in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, claiming that they all came from the proceeds of his family business, established long before his entry into politics.
Opposition stages walk out from Senate
Meanwhile, the opposition parties in the upper house of Parliament staged a walkout owing to the prime minister’s absence from the house as earlier demanded by the opposition.
“As per the understanding Opposition will continue the walk-out from Senate until the PM turns up and clear his position on Panama Papers.”
Last week, opposition lawmakers had walked out of both the Senate and the National Assembly, demanding the prime minister come to Parliament to answer their questions.