One-member commission to also probe Hudaibiya sugar mills, PPP Surrey Palace in addition to liabilities paid to U.K.-based assets recovery firm
The federal cabinet on Tuesday expanded the scope of an inquiry commission tasked with probing the Broadsheet LLC scandal, with Information Minister Shibli Faraz saying it would now also investigate the Hudaibiya sugar mills of the PMLN and the Surrey Palace of PPP leaders.
Addressing a press conference, he said that the cabinet had constituted a one-member commission—led by and solely comprising former Supreme Court judge Azmat Sheikh—under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 2017. The commission would, he said, submit its findings within 45 days and “expose” anyone who had played a role in causing losses to the national exchequer. The commission, per its terms of reference, is empowered to summon any institution or individual or seek official documents it requires to achieve its mandate.
The PPP and PMLN have already rejected the appointment of Sheikh, arguing that he was affiliated with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) when it signed the deal with Broadsheet. The PMLN has also questioned his bias, noting that he was part of the bench that disqualified former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and is currently a member of the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital’s Board of Governors alongside Prime Minister Imran Khan, therefore it is unlikely that a transparent probe could be conducted.
To questions, Faraz said that the Broadsheet probe was not meant to target the government’s rivals, but rather sought to identify “criminals” who had caused financial losses to Pakistan. He claimed the Broadsheet case had “exposed” the manner in which past regimes had provided amnesty to the corrupt in the name of political expediency.
To another question, the information minister said that the government hoped Sheikh would conduct the investigation upon its formal notification, as he had not yet issued any statement to the contrary. He described him as the most competent person for the job due to his experience with NAB and the Supreme Court. He accused the opposition of criticizing the appointment because Sheikh was the only one who “could take the matter to its logical end.”
The Commission of Inquiry Act, 2017 empowers any commission with the powers of a high court, including contempt for abusing, interfering or obstructing its process in any way. The commission can also summon or enforce the attendance of any individual, and can requisition any public record or copy from any court.