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SC may take up JI petition about offshore firms on 23rd

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court is expected to take up on Nov 23 a petition moved by the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) seeking a court order against all those who have stashed fortunes in offshore companies.

The petition is likely to be taken up by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and Justice Maqbool Baqar.

On Nov 3, the JI had filed an application reminding the Supreme Court of its pending petition filed by party chief Sirajul Haq in August last year.

A five-judge SC bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, which was hearing cases against then prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members against the backdrop of the Panama Papers leaks, had separated the JI petition from others because the grounds taken in it were too wide. The court, however, assured the JI that its petition would be taken up at some convenient time.

Court asked to arrest all those who invested public money abroad

In the application, Advocate Muhammad Ishtiaq Ahmed Raja, representing Sirajul Haq, expressed the fear that if the petition was not fixed for early hearing, the petitioner as well as the general public would suffer irreparable losses.

The application, filed under Order 33 Rule 6 of the Supreme Court Rules 1980, argued that the petition had been moved in the larger national interest to save the public money and, therefore, any delay in taking up the case would facilitate the owners of offshore companies to further camouflage their sources and money.

In his petition, Sirajul Haq had requested the apex court to order the five respondents — the federal government through the parliamentary affairs ministry, secretaries of law and justice, finance and cabinet division and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) — to arrest all those who had invested stolen money in offshore companies and bring the public money, which had illegally been transferred to the companies, back to the country.

He contended that although Pakistan was making supreme sacrifices in the war against terrorism, government officials, office-bearers of legal entities and citizens were making investments in offshore companies through illegal and corrupt means. Thus, huge sums of money had been laundered or illegally transferred and parked in offshore companies without the knowledge of the state, causing massive financial losses to the nation, he added.

The petition had said the investments in offshore companies, in fact, originated from public money, and alleged that the respondents were trying to prolong the Panama Papers controversy until the end of the current government’s tenure.

It said that a large number of public office-holders had been making investments in offshore companies and concealing such facts in the statements of assets they submitted to various entities. Therefore, it said, all such people were liable to be disqualified from their offices and punished.

The petition had claimed that due to negligence and inaction on the part of government agencies, the due process of accountability was not getting under way in a transparent manner and the existing accountability regime under NAB did not look like “across-the-board accountability”.

The illegal transfer of national wealth for investment in offshore companies should be declared an offence under Section 9 of the National Accountability Ordinance and the court should order trial of all those who had made such investments by a commission of inquiry under the laws of the land, it said.

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2017

Source: News

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