ISLAMABAD – PAC yesterday could not be briefed about the Panama controversy due to absence of four heads of the main state departments – NAB, FIA, State Bank of Pakistan and Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan. A meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), chaired by Syed Khurshid Shah, summoned DG FIA, the State Bank governor, foreign affairs secretary, the NAB chairman and SECP chairman.

The Public Accounts Committee, under Rule-224, was to discuss, in length, one-point agenda about Panama leaks issue for the first time in the meeting while the top officials of all these related departments were to brief the meeting on the burning Panama issue.

PTI lawmaker Arif Alvi had formally requested PAC chief Syed Khurshid Shah, through an application, to hold a meeting on this particular matter.

The PAC chairman expressed displeasure over the absence of these top officials to brief the meeting. “The absence of heads from all these departments is an insult of this parliament, as in previous era of PML-N, they used to attend the meetings regularly,” Khurshid Shah remarked.

Shah was referring to Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan as the PAC chairman when rarely any top official had missed meetings of the PAC.

The PAC chairman said the State Bank governor should not miss this meeting to brief the committee on the issue. “His absence is tantamount to ignoring the PAC, which is not acceptable,” he said.

He further said no official would be allowed t break the law. “We will use our powers if the state bank governor does not attend the next meeting,” said the PAC chief. About the absence of the SECP chairman, the SECP commissioner said he was busy with the prime minister in Karachi.

The PAC chairman, in response, referred to the PM Secretariat’s notification about giving priority to PAC in any situation.

About the absence of the FIA DG, the PAC officials said additional FIA DG would brief the committee about the issue. The PAC chairman rejected the briefing of the additional FIA DG, saying top officials should brief the committee.

A committee member termed PAC a ‘toothless body’. Another member, Junaid Anwar, said all these officials need to be summoned on this matter. “The government officials should be summoned on their negligence,” he added. Taking notice of it, the PAC chairman summoned all the top officials of the main organizations on next meeting.

Talking to media persons, Syed Khurshid Shah said no parliamentary committee was issued any direction for not discussing the Panama leaks issue. “No parliamentary committee has been issued any direction in this regard,” said the opposition leader, responding to a query.

Another senior lawmaker, Pervaiz Elahi, talking to the media, cast doubts over the absence of all the top officials. “It might be pre-planned,” he added.

Sources said the upcoming PAC meeting might discuss this issue on September 20. They said PAC might issue an order for a formal enquiry into the Panama leaks in the upcoming meeting. The PAC joint secretary had earlier issued notices to Federal Board of Revenue, the finance secretary and National Accountability Bureau, asking them to ensure their presence in the PAC meeting of September 8.

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