ISLAMABAD - The government yesterday disclosed the name of five retired judges of the superior judiciary that it said had refused to join the proposed judicial commission to investigate offshore wealth of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family in the wake of Panama leaks.

“We contacted former Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice (r) Tassadaq Hussain Jilani, former CJP Nasirul Mulk, Justice (r) Sahir Ali, Justice (r) Amirul Mulk Mengal and Justice (r) Tanveer Ahmed Khan but they all refused to become part of the commission without giving any reason,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said yesterday.

But at the same time Nisar had a reason for the refusal, as he claimed they refused because the opposition parties have ‘politicised’ the issue. The minister, who himself frequently holds lengthy press conferences was unhappy with the ‘media trial’ of government over Panama Papers.

Addressing a press conference at Punjab House, he said the government was in contact with some other retired judges of the superior judiciary. “The honesty of all these judges is above board and they could not become a source to cover up the government,” he viewed.

The opposition parties, especially the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has been demanding a fair probe under the present CJP since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced forming a probe panel under a retired judge. The minister did not explain why they were contacting only the retired judges.

Later, PTI in a statement said that refusal of the retired judges was a show of no confidence in the government. “The judges know that they would not be given powers to hold a transparent and impartial inquiry,” said PTI Secretary Information Naeemul Haq. He said that the interior minister should show courage and bring the details of real assets of Sharif family before the masses.

Chaudhry Nisar in his presser again invited the political parties to ‘sit together’ to constitute some forum to probe allegations of Panama leaks and again rejected the demand of a judicial commission under the sitting CJP. A forum could not be formed only on the wish of PTI, he said.

Blaming the opposition that it had been changing its stances on the issue, the minister quoted the statements of PTI leaders Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and PPP leader Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan and said they had been urging the NAB and FIA to initiate action on Panama leaks.

He said, “I accepted the offer but a new demand came from (Imran) Khan for the formation of commission under Shoaib Saddle.”

Imran wants Suddle to head the investigation team arguing that he is an expert in white collar crime and an upright retired police officer, who also served as director general of Intelligence Bureau.

But Nisar has already refused saying he cannot be made part of FIA probe team because he was a retired officer and not serving in the agency.

There is no legal binding on government to keep the investigation team FIA-specific as there are many cases that are being investigated by joint investigation teams comprising officials of different agencies and departments. Also, there is no legal bar to making a retired expert part of any investigation team.

The opposition says that the mal-intent of the government is evident from the fact that it wants the judicial commission under a retired judge of its choice but is reluctant to make a retired police officer part to the investigation team.

The minister in his press conference said, “If it is illegal to have money, then the same principle should be applied to the parliamentarians of PPP and other parties” and again asked for the formation of a parliamentary ethics committee to hold accountable all the MPs. He suggested that FIA could also be brought under the supervision of this proposed committee for any case forwarded to it.

Giving warning shots to PTI chairman, he said, “Khan Sahib, if I made public in whose company you live these days, it will become a big tamasha (drama).”

He taunted Imran Khan for contacting PPP to become part of his protest against Sharif family and pointed out that the names of PPP leadership were also in these leaks. “Now Khan Sahib is contacting Chaudhries (PML-Q leadership)” though he has been issuing statements against them in the past, he said.

Speaking about the remarks of Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Syed Khursheed Shah, he said that he (Nisar) was ready to probe corruption charges against Shah through FIA if he desired so. “I had only said that NAB sent files of his corruption to me,” the minister said, without explaining what was preventing him from doing his duty and initiating action against the PPP leader.

Nisar brushed aside all the speculations about prime minister’s visit to London and said he was not going to hold secret meeting with PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari there. “Mian Nawaz Sharif is not going to meet anybody in London; rather, he went there for his medical treatment.”

PM had gone through a small procedure due to unstable heartbeat some years ago in London that went heavily wrong, he said. “From that day, he has been undergoing check-ups.” The prime minister was not feeling well for the last two to three weeks and he “will be back in next few days”, he said, advising his political opponent not to do point scoring on that matter.

About the PTI’s announced rally at F-Park on its foundation day, the minister apparently changed his previous stance that PTI would not be allowed to hold rally at the proposed venue. “PTI can be allowed but with some guarantees,” he said, without mentioning the venue. He said that some deliberations had been held with PTI at parliament level but his meeting with Khan could not be held because of busy schedule on both sides. If the PTI would guarantee that the participants of the rally would no move out the proposed venue, it would be allowed, he said.

About investigations in murder case of MQM leader Dr Imran Farooq, the minister said that FIA had sought legal assistance and evidence from UK. Similarly, Scotland Yard, in a letter written to the interior ministry, wanted to visit Pakistan not only to share evidence and information in Imran Farooq case but also in money laundering case against MQM chief Altaf Hussain.

He said that there was substantive report about money laundering case against Altaf Hussain in the light of the statement of Sarfraz Merchant, former donor of MQM, and FIA would again probe Merchant in the second stage of the investigations.

Nisar said he was leaving for Germany in a couple of days on a private visit as his wife was under treatment there. “I have disclosed this personal information so that no rumours could be spread,” he said.