The Trickle-Down Effect

When the Panama Papers scandal newly came out, it was a point of discussion on how to take punitive measures against those named; there was confusion whether only the major politicians, such as Nawaz Sharif, would be implicated, or action would be taken against all those named in the Papers and guilty of skirting the law. After a tumultuous year and many conflicts, it seems we have our answer.

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal has ordered an immediate inquiry into the offshore firms held by 435 Pakistanis in tax havens abroad. While taking notice of 435 Pakistani registered offshore companies in Panama and British Virgin Islands, the NAB chief ordered to get details of these offshore firms from the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR), the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). The chief stressed that these cases should be investigated with no outside pressure.

This is a conducive step by NAB, which does favour to the institution’s name. By taking this step, NAB ensures that the happening of the past year and the subsequent Supreme Court decision was part of an ongoing movement, and not just a politically motivated battle between the institutions. The chapter of anti-corruption does not just end with the ouster of the Prime Minister; to prove credibility to the cause, NAB had to take this step to fairly implicate all those who touted the law. The impact of the Panama Papers was monumental throughout the world; it should not be made political in Pakistan.

However, this would only be possible if NAB shows more intent and ingenuity to properly investigating other possible cases of financial impropriety. The Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) half-hearted attempt to look into the matter – which was stopped after simply sending notices to all the people named in the leak – is still fresh in memory, the NAB must do better.

If Nawaz Sharif was the first, and Jehangir Tareen and Imran Khan the next, to be asked to provide justification for their assets, then other people in the position of power – lawmakers, provincial and federal, bureaucrats, and politicians – must follow

The Panama decision, as flawed as it was, could not be effective until it produces a trickle-down effect of accountability for all implicated, from many spheres of business, law and politics, to eradicate the culture of assets beyond means.

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