The Judicial Commission


Explain the money

The Panama Papers raise two categories of questions, those belonging to the moral realm and those to the legal. While emphasising the moral issue involved, British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn observed: “There cannot be one set of tax laws for the wealthy elite and another for the rest of us.” While one expects the Sharif family to abide by the moral values, one has to concede that Pakistan’s ruling elite, be it civilian or military, cares little for morality when it comes to money minting. In April 2013 Musharraf declared his assets worth Rs645.011 million but left the column of taxes paid blank. Well-known leaders – who own palaces and luxury houses abroad and have accounts in foreign banks – pay pittance as income tax. Many fail to justify their lavish style of life which is often incommensurate with the wealth declared. Interestingly their party men are in the forefront to throw a stone at the Prime Minister.

Tax evasion by making use of loopholes in the law is euphemistically called tax avoidance and accepted as bona fide practice. As President Obama put it, “The rich and the influential reported in Panama leaks did not break laws because they had enough lawyers and accountants to ‘wiggle out of responsibilities’ by exploiting ‘loopholes.’” This requires a worldwide revision of the existing taxation laws.
There are a number of things that remain unclear about the origins of the money used by Sharif family members who set up the business in UK. Also, how to reconcile documentary evidence showing Maryam Safdar as “beneficial owner” with her brother’s statement that she is no more than a trustee? Nawaz Sharif has announced the setting up of a Judicial Commission while some of the opposition leaders want the matter to be probed by NAB. Others have called to question the reliability of a commission comprising retired judges appointed by the government. One will have to wait for the TORs to be announced to form an opinion about the Commission.

Pakistan Today