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Panama leaks case litmus test for country: Bilawal

Panama leaks case litmus test for country: Bilawal

LAHORE: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has claimed that judiciary is being criticised in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to adjourn the Panamagate case hearing to the first week of January.

In a tweet on Sunday, he said Panama Papers leaks had created more difficulties for the judiciary than it did for the executive and parliament. “Our system is broken. We must work together to fix it.”

A five-judge bench on Dec 9 adjourned the Panamagate hearing to the first week of January and now a new bench would be formed to hear the case afresh. Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, who headed the proceedings, will not be part of the new bench as he is reaching superannuation on Dec 30.

“Panama case is a litmus test for our country,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari said. He accused Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of being involved in the financial scandal and said that dilly-dallying tactics being used by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in passing the PPP-supported bill on Panamagate investigation should make the entire nation “sit up and take notice of the wrongdoing”.

The young leader has already declared that the PPP would launch a protest campaign if the PML-N government fails to accept its four demands — appointment of a full-fledged foreign minister, formation of a parliamentary committee on national security, passage of the opposition’s bill seeking investigation into the Panamagate scam and implementation of the resolution passed by a multiparty conference on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor held in May last year.

“Our demands will... go a long way in introducing democratic accountability of all the institutions... to curb corruption of every kind with no escape route to sacred cows,” he said.

Senior PPP leader Shaukat Basra said that Panamagate was one of the most important cases in the country’s history and his party was expecting day-to-day hearings on the matter.

He said the PPP had advised “foolish friends of PTI” not to take the Panama Papers leaks to the court but they did not pay heed to the suggestion and now they were regretting their decision. “Now the PTI has realised that the PPP’s advice was correct. It’s never too late as even now the PTI can join hands with the PPP for a joint struggle against the “Sharifs’ kingdom”, he added.

PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry while talking to Dawn said that the party had been disappointed over the decision to recommence the Panama case despite the fact that it had completed its arguments regarding the prime minister’s involvement in money laundering.

Besides, he said, it was being expected that the National Accountability Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency and Federal Board of Revenue would be ordered to launch investigation into the Panama case but that also did not happen. “Now the same bench should continue hearing the case after the retirement of the chief justice,” he said.

In reply to a question about a joint PTI-PPP protest campaign against the government over the Panamagate issue, Mr Chaudhry said: “We have decided to take our workers to the streets by the end of this month. The first of a series of the PTI’s public meetings will be held in Peshawar. We will also see what PPP does after its Dec 27 deadline expires before exploring the idea of a joint struggle.”

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2016

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