LAHORE - Following the army chief’s action against top rankers in the military, the government tends to form the judicial commission under a sitting SC judge with little chance of giving due weight to the suggestion presented by SCBA for appointing a national task force.

Sources in the government quarters say the suggestion for setting up a task force has been received by the quarters concerned and hopefully it would be considered. However, another relevant source said the SCBA proposal is already in the mind of the government, but right now the point is placating the opposition parties which are uniting on seeking a probe commission under a sitting judge of the Supreme Court after the army chief has fired 13 high-ranking military officers with a single stroke of pen on corruption charges only a day after he called for across-the-board accountability in the country. After the army chief has put his own house in order, the government is facing compelling circumstances for immediate action on the formation of a commission to look into the Panama leaks which have mentioned the children of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as operating offshore companies allegedly with illegally siphoned money from Pakistan to abroad.

In this scenario, the option of appointing a commission for the government under a sitting judge is more a feasible way out than any other mode, the source adds.

The Supreme Court Bar Association has formally made announcement for the formation of a national task force comprising two former superior court judges and a legal expert of eminence with wide powers to seek help from all probe agencies and the State Bank of Pakistan in addition to access to the material concerned abroad to investigate the Panama leaks. The Bar had rejected the PTI demand for holding investigation through the Chief Justice of Pakistan and also decision of the government to entrust this exercise to a former judge of the Supreme Court. The Bar viewed both the options as a futile exercise and rejected them on the plea that the matter involved international dimension, so UN Convention against Corruption and Stolen Assets Recovery Initiative could govern the probe in a fair manner.

The Bar last week also held separate meetings with PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi and the government team led by Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid and apprised them of the proposal. Both agreed to put the same before their respective leadership. The Bar made their proposal public through a media conference here yesterday.

While talking to this scribe, SCBA Secretary Asad Manzoor Butt said they had forwarded a copy of the proposed commission to all relevant authorities in the government and the political parties. However, he said, no message has so far been received as to what the response to the same is.

SCBA President Barrister Syed Ali Zafar rejected the idea of formation of a domestic judicial or a parliamentary commission, maintaining it would have neither powers nor jurisdiction to investigate the matter. Zafar stated the issue of Panama leaks can effectively be investigated with the support of UNCAC. He said UNCAC came into force on December 14, 2005, and 130 countries approved it.

Zafar said SCBA wanted the government to initiate the process and show its intention to and get help of international joint investigation teams under the UNCAC by promulgating an ordinance, authorising the Chief Justice of Pakistan to nominate a national task force.

He also said that the time period for completion of the investigation should be two months extendable to a maximum six months from the commencement of investigation.

The proposed task force could be empowered to examine all documents/records, including financial data, taxes, bank accounts and central or state banks, financial intelligence units or record witnesses’ statements in or outside the country, he said.

Zafar said the task force should also be given the powers of a civil court for summoning, discovery and production of documents and requisitioning any public record and of contempt.

He said the task force should be empowered to require persons to furnish information and to direct the law-enforcement agencies to enter any building or place for the purpose of seizure of evidence.

When asked what the reaction of SCBA would be if the government refused to accept its suggestions, Zafar replied they would stand by the opposition.

Other office bearers of the SCBA were also present there on the occasion.