ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court will form a commission to investigate Panamagate and set its terms of reference if the parties fail to reach consensus, held a five-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, a day before the PTI’s planned protest to shut down the federal capital.

While hearing the constitutional petitions of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Jamaat-e-Islami, Awami Muslim League and Advocate Tariq Asad, the court directed the petitioners and the respondents to submit their formulations regarding ToRs on Thursday, the next date of hearing.

The short order said: “During the hearing, a proposal for formation of a commission also came under consideration, to which prima facie all the stakeholders showed inclination.”

The chief justice indicated the commission comprising serving judge of the Supreme Court would be powerful and have power of the apex court and could take assistance of any institution for the investigation of the Panama leaks. The august court, on receiving its report, would pass an appropriate order, he held.

The court expected that now all the concerned would show restraint. The chief justice said: “We are not passing any order, but expect better all sides will show restraint as hardly any justification is left for protest. Let the people have peace as politics would continue,” he added.

The chief justice requested the petitioners and respondents to save the country from chaos and crisis and lower temper as day after tomorrow they would hold another hearing of the case. “We are determined to resolve the issue and will not allow latitude to anyone,” Justice Khosa said.

AML Chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed expressed satisfaction over the outcome of the proceedings when the chief justice asked him about the order. JI Amir Sirajul Haq was also pleased with the hearing.

The PTI chairman, as a good gesture, deferred sit-in and told his workers that today (November 2) they would observe ‘thanks-giving day’ as the apex court had accepted their demands. The government also ordered removal of containers from Islamabad and various parts of the Punjab.

Salman Butt who represented Nawaz Sharif, his family members and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, after taking instructions from the prime minister, told the court that the PM accepted the commission probing the alleged illegal acquisition of properties in London and the returns filed in the Election Commission of Pakistan.

The PM says; “If the allegations stand proven against him, I shall accept the ensuing legal consequences,” Salman told the court.

The courtroom No 1 was jam-packed with lawyers as well as the leaders and workers of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, PTI, AML and JI. Prominent among them were Dr Shireen Mazari, Umer Asad, Sirajul Haq, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Railways Minister Saad Rafiq, Information Technology Minister Anusha Rehman, Talal Chaudhry and Daniyal Aziz.

Advocate Hamid Khan, representing PTI Chairman Imran Khan, threw light on the facts of the case. He, however, asserted the commission should have powers of the august court which could get information from other institutions and the investigative agencies.

Salman Butt said the pending cases against PTI Secretary General Jehangir Tareen and Imran Khan’s sister regarding offshore companies should also be entrusted to the commission. However, the chief justice said he could file a separate petition if he felt aggrieved.

Earlier, the court was annoyed with the media for misreporting and asked the federation and other respondents why they had failed to file replies despite the fact that it was a very important case. It also snubbed the NAB prosecutor general for not carrying out the investigation under National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.

Hamid Khan argued they had filed the petition in the apex court as no consensus could be reached in the Parliament. He said the PTI bill for investigation into the Panama leaks was lying in the cold storage of the parliament, adding the government wanted to drag the issue. The counsel, however, failed to provide substantial evidence regarding alleged properties of the PM’s family and just relied on emails of the Mossack Fonsenac, a Panamanian law firm, which leaked the papers.

Justice Khosa gave three options – investigation by the SC itself, or hearing of the petitions and deciding the matter or forming a commission.

The chief justice asked the PTI counsel to satisfy whether the court could take the role of an investigation agency. Justice Jamali said: “We are not a criminal court. If the apex court conducts the trial, it will deprive the right of other party as the Supreme Court is the final court and there is no appeal against its judgment.”

Hamid Khan said the proceedings of the case could be inquisitorial as was done in many cases in the past like Hajj scam and Steel Mills case. The chief justice said it’s a financial matter and a detailed investigation was required in this case. “We are not an investigation agency,” the CJP added.

Advocate Tariq Asad contended that all those who own offshore companies should also be investigated. He added former General (r) Pervez Musharraf had also companies abroad, so the court should order investigation against him as well.

Prosecutor General Qadeer Dar maintained the main reliance of the petitioners was on the leaked information of M/s Mossack Fonseca consisting of 11.5 million documents known as Panama Papers and there was no sanctity attached with these documents about their genuineness, authenticity and ownership.

However, the court observed that under Section 9(5) of NAO, 1999, the NAB should have investigated the Panamagate. The case was adjourned until Thursday.