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The Pandora Papers: What next?

Nawaz Sharif was forced to leave his prime ministerial office because his name had appeared in the Panama Papers

As the repercussions of the Panama Papers of 2016, which had shaken and created havoc in many countries including my beloved Pakistan, faded a bit, a new bombshell named the Pandora Papers has appeared. It is believed to be stronger than the Panama Papers, and is said to have terrified many world leaders, billionaires, celebrities, politicians, and business magnates in different countries. What is strongly expected is that now many heads will roll in different countries in due course of time.

This is a barefaced and a brash example of nothing but sheer greed on the part of the concerned individuals who did not pay taxes to their governments. They, cunningly, exported untaxed money overseas and invested it in different manners so that their black money could be turned into white money. The Pandora Papers have exposed those who never expected their secret doings to ever be leaked.

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It goes without saying that had the Pandora Papers not been based on facts, the former heads of states and other VIPs named in the expose would have sued the ICIJ for tarnishing their name through false allegations of corruption and illegally exporting money from their respective countries. Not even one person has sued ICIJ at the time of the writing of this article. That establishes and proves that the Pandora Papers are bitter like quinine, and all those individuals who have been named therein had no alternative but to swallow the bitter pill.

ICIJ states: “The Pandora Papers reveal the inner workings of a shadow economy that benefits the wealthy and the well-connected at the expense of everyone else. By ICIJ and 600+ journalists, the largest collaboration in journalism history.”

Such a statement proclaims aloud as to how the concerned citizens have quite deliberately and emphatically gone against the national interest of the countries they belonged to by diverting huge sums of money from their countries to overseas safe havens, which is both criminal and shameful.

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The gigantic task undertaken by the ICIJ took two years, engaging as many as 600 journalists, along with 150 media companies drawn from 117 countries. 12 million files were studied and investigated to establish nothing but facts devoid of any ifs and buts. Most of the cases are of the period 1996-2020, although the investigations date back to 1970s as well. Umar Cheema and Fakhar Durrani are the 2 Pakistani journalists in the group of 600 journalists engaged to accomplish the daunting task.

A few of the categories listed in the Pandora Papers are:

Head of States (12)

Former Head of States (10)

Head of Governments (4)

Former Head of Governments (12)

Head of Organisation (1)

Ministers (25) including Pakistanis

Bankers (7) including Pakistanis

Media (5) including Pakistanis

Legislators (10) including Pakistanis

Politicians (35)

Royalty (6)

Religious figure (1)

Businesspeople (79) including Pakistanis

Some of the Pakistanis mentioned in the Pandora Papers are serving in the incumbent government. Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced that each person mentioned in the Pandora Papers will be investigated. He has formed a commission headed by the Law Minister to dig out the truth about the individuals concerned. But at the moment, it seems to be nothing but a paperwork formality, as it is believed that those who dole out huge amounts of money to support the PTI and are exposed through the Pandora Papers would never be punished.

In all fairness, all those mentioned in the Pandora Papers must resign from their positions to face the investigation, but surprisingly, neither PM Khan has asked them to quit, nor have they offered to tender their resignations. Therefore, it is feared that there cannot be a fair investigation as the ones being questioned can use their official authority to influence the investigation directly or indirectly. Also, PM Khan should have asked a sitting judge of the Supreme Court to head the investigation, but no SC judge has been included in the commission.

Nawaz Sharif was forced to leave his prime ministerial office because his name had appeared in the Panama Papers. On the allegation of concealing his assets, the Supreme Court disqualified him to be a member of the National Assembly, which meant that he could not continue to be the prime minister. Now the nation is waiting to see if anyone will be punished if they are accused of tax evasion or any other financial crime.

I wish I was wrong, but I am not. In my beloved Pakistan, the Pandora Papers will be seen in the news and on television screens for a few more days, and eventually, as per the past bitter experiences, it will also fade away. We not only vehemently believe but also practise “mitti pao” (ignore it).

The writer can be reached at zaidi.formerdiplomat@hotmail.com


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