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Pakistan Senate adopts Panamgate Bill

Islamabad [Pakistan]: The opposition-dominated Pakistan Senate has passed the ‘Panamagate bill’ with slight amendments and it will now go to the National Assembly, where the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz enjoys majority, for approval.

Amid barbs traded between members of both the treasury and opposition benches, the bill was passed with 37 votes in favour and 15 against on Thursday, reports the Dawn.

Jehanzaib Jamaldani of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal sided with the government while sitting on the opposition benches and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) abstained.

The bill moved by the opposition will become law only after it’s passed by National Assembly where PML-N has the numbers to reject it.

Ayesha Raza Farooq’s amendment to add Bahamas leaks and other sources in the purview of the bill was rejected by the house thorough voice vote.

The bill titled ‘Panama Papers Inquiries Act 2016’, introduced by the opposition in the Senate on September 26, has been pending before the standing committee on law and justice, headed by PML-N’s Javed Abbasi, because of a deadlock between the government and the opposition.

It proposes a judicial commission to investigate the setting up of offshore companies by hundreds of Pakistanis, including the children of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as revealed by the Panama Papers leaks.

Terming the bill as useless, the government is opposing it and has pointed out that the Supreme Court has already taken up petitions of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and others on the issue.

The bill suggests a forensic audit of all the money sent abroad through secret channels.

The proposed law makes it binding upon all those whose names have appeared in the Panama Papers to provide the commission access to their bank accounts. It contains all the terms of reference proposed by the opposition for the commission, which the government has already rejected.

The bill binds the commission to first investigate Prime Minister Sharif and his family before proceeding against the other Pakistanis involved. However, the text avoids naming PM Sharif or his office, instead referring to: “the inquiry against a respondent, who publicly volunteers himself and his family for accountability or who publicly admits holding of offshore assets, along with his family, shall be completed and submitted in the first instance”. (ANI)