‘Blame game after Panama verdict will affect economy’

KARACHI -  Undue protests and blame game for political mileage in the aftermath of the Supreme Court judgement in Panama case is likely to have a negative impact on the economy and dilute achievements of the CPEC, renowned economist Dr Shahid Hassan Siddiqui told The Nation on Thursday.

He said it was crystal clear that after the judgement in the Panama case, political parties, especially the Imran Khan-led PTI, would continue to pursue the policy of “blame game” with more force and enthusiasm instead of trying to prove the allegations against the prime minister and his family. They should come up with strategies to overcome serious challenges confronting the economy and security.

He said it appeared that the PTI in the coming days would back out of its repeated commitment that it would accept the Supreme Court verdict in the Panama case and would criticise the judgement, particularly formation of the joint investigation team (JIT).

Replying to a question about the next general elections, Siddiqui said that unfortunately 2018 elections would be contested on blame game rather than real issues. He said it must be recognised that real objectives of the petitioners in the Panama case were not recovery of the so-called plundered money but the objectives were to gain political mileage. Otherwise, he said, the key point in the petitions should have been recovery of the plundered money kept in Pakistan known as “Domestic Panamas” in the form of properties, shares, bank deposits, government securities, national saving schemes and vehicles, etc. This would have generated a revenue of about Rs2,000 billion and exposed the culprits, including politicians, he said. He said that a request should have been made in petitions for abolition of 111 (4) of IT Ordinance, which practically provided legal protection to plundered money, and for abolition of existing tax amnesty scheme for properties.

Dr Siddiqui said, as political parties are likely to launch serious protest movements against the government, it will lead to more political instability and have a negative impact on the economy and investment climate and accelerate transfer of capital. The inflation will also go up and hurt the common man, he said.

The Stock Exchange has already shown a tremendous upward trend, but this will be unsustainable due to uncertainties and protests. It must be recognised that due to huge investment in early harvest projects by China under CEPEC, the GDP growth rate would show an upward trend in FY 2018, FY 2019 and FY 2020, but this would be lower than potentiality due to unhealthy political climate. The exports would also show upward trend but comparatively at a slower rate due to the protest movement.

Regarding formation of a joint investigation team (JIT) by the Supreme Court, he recalled that a serious Stock Exchange crisis was engineered in Pakistan in 2005 and its record was available. The American forensic company “DILIGENCE”, which was entrusted with the job to fix the responsibility and which got millions of dollars in fees, failed to give a conclusive report and fix the responsibility.

He said that practically documents and record was not available in the Panama case and the members of the JIT did not have the knowledge, experience and expertise like that of the US forensic company. It is therefore apprehended that the JIT report may not be able to fix the responsibility.

Incidentally, it may be mentioned that the Supreme Court in 2007 had taken suo moto notice of unprofessional write-off advances by banks and subsequent issuance of illegal circular no 29 of 2002 by the SBP, but despite lapse of 10 years a judgement has not been announced, notwithstanding there are reports that a portion of the amount written-off was transferred abroad through Hundi/Hawala system. An earlier judgement could lead to repatriation of this looted money from abroad.

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