What are the ‘Pandora Papers’?
With over 600 journalists from 150 media sites in 117 countries, the Pandora Papers investigation was the world’s largest-ever journalistic collaboration.
The inquiry was based on the disclosure of secret documents from 14 offshore service providers, known for their professional services to rich people and organizations looking to form shell corporations, trusts, foundations, and other entities in low- or no-tax jurisdictions. Owners can hide their names from the public and, in certain cases, from regulators, thanks to these entities. Frequently, the service providers assist them in establishing bank accounts in nations with lax financial regulations. The 2.94 gigabytes of material released to ICIJ and shared with global media partners arrived in a variety of formats, including documents, pictures, emails, spreadsheets, and more.
The documents contained a massive quantity of data on the so-called beneficial owners of companies registered in the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, Hong Kong, Belize, Panama, South Dakota, and other secrecy jurisdictions. They also listed the shareholders, directors, and executives.
What exactly was contained within the Pandora Papers?
Over 330 lawmakers from more than 90 nations and territories were exposed as a result of the leak. They bought real estate, held money in trust, and owned other firms and assets through shell corporations based in secrecy jurisdictions.
The Pandora Papers expose how banks and law firms collaborate with offshore service providers to construct complicated company structures. Despite their legal responsibility to avoid doing business with persons who engage in dubious transactions, the files indicate that providers don’t always know who their clients are. (DAWN.COM. 2021. What is the Pandora Papers? [online] Available at: <https://www.dawn.com/news/1649931> [Accessed 4 October 2021])
Pakistan’s Future in the Wake of Pandora Papers
More than 600 journalists from 150 news organizations in 117 countries participated in this huge reporting endeavor. The News investigative journalist Umar Cheema is one of the ICIJ’s members from Pakistan.
The Pandora Papers allegedly include the identities of at least 700 Pakistanis. The Pandora Papers contain the identities of former Pakistani military officers, politicians, and businesses. In a country beset by severe poverty and tax evasion, the Pandora Papers investigation uncovers civilian government and military elites who have been concealing enormous sums of money.
The latest released data shows that Pakistan’s elites employ offshore services in a way that matches the revelations of the Panama Papers, which contributed to Sharif’s demise and helped Imran Khan rise to power. Khan’s spokesman informed a news conference on October 3, 2021, before the publishing of the Pandora Papers, that the prime minister “had no offshore corporation,” but that if any of his ministers or advisers did, “it will be their deeds and they will have to be held accountable.” According to the Pandora Papers, the wife of Gen. Shafaat Ullah Shah, one of Pakistan’s top generals and a former advisor to President Pervez Musharraf, purchased a $1.2 million flat in London in a covert offshore transaction in 2007.
An offshore firm controlled by Akbar Asif, a rich businessman with restaurants in London and Dubai, handed the property to Gen. Shah’s wife. K Asif, an Indian filmmaker, is Asif’s father. Asif, Jr. met with Musharraf at London’s Dorchester Hotel to request an exemption to Pakistan’s 40-year ban on Indian films so that one of his father’s most renowned films may be released there. According to the records, Asif has a multimillion-dollar property portfolio that he owns through a network of offshore corporations.
The London flat was transferred to Shafaat Shah’s wife through one of those businesses, Talah Ltd., which was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). In 2006, Talah purchased an apartment in the Canary Wharf financial area. The next year, Asif handed the company’s ownership to Fariha Shah.
Heena Kausar, Asif’s sister, is the widow of Iqbal Mirchi, a prominent player in D-company, a leading organized criminal gang. The US had sanctioned Mirchi as a narcotics trafficker at that time. Mirchi was one of India’s most sought persons until he died in 2013. The acquisition of the London flat, according to Gen. Shah, was arranged through a former army comrade who was then working as a consultant to London real estate businesses, rather than through any personal relationship to Asif. Because “I already owned properties in my name but she didn’t,” Gen. Shah said the flat was “named” to his wife to equalize tax deductions. Shah claims that his wife has never seen Asif and that he only met him once as a Musharaff aide when Asif briefly lobbied the president for his father’s film “in the corridors of the Dorchester Hotel when he had accompanied the hairstylist who had come to cut Mrs. Musharraf’s hair.” (Gibbs, M. and Politzer, M., 2021. Prime Minister Imran Khan promised ‘New Pakistan’ but members of his inner circle secretly moved millions offshore – ICIJ. [online] ICIJ. Available at: <https://www.icij.org/investigations/pandora-papers/pakistan-imran-khan-prime-minister-allies-offshore/> [Accessed 4 October 2021].)
Khan has continues to use anti-corruption rhetoric even after his ousting from the office, railing against elites who, he says on Twitter, “come to power and plunder the country.”
Analysts, on the other hand, think Khan has failed his reform-minded followers and has become a figurehead. Aqil Shah, a visiting professor at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told ICIJ, “He doesn’t have an issue with the military controlling the country while they pretend that he’s in command.”
Khan’s spokesman, Shahbaz Gill, told ICIJ that the PTI “believed in the separation of powers,” and that the military was under the control of the state’s executive branch. Tarin did not reply to the ICIJ’s inquiries. “The off-shore businesses referenced were formed as part of the capital raising procedure for my Bank,” Tarin stated in a statement released the day the Pandora Papers were published.
In 2018, Omer Bakhtyar, the brother of Khan’s minister for industry, Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar, used an offshore corporation to transfer a $1 million flat in London’s Chelsea neighborhood to his elderly mother. Since Bhaktyar initially became a minister in Pervez Musharaff’s administration in 2004, the state anti-corruption agency has been examining accusations that his family’s wealth has mysteriously “ballooned.” Makhdum Bakhtyar claimed in a written statement to ICIJ that the anti-corruption agency’s inquiry was based on false claims that undervalued his family’s prior riches and that it had yet to result in a formal complaint.
Waqar Masood Khan’s son, who served as Khan’s top adviser for finance and revenue from 2019 to 2020, co-owned a firm in the British Virgin Islands. In August, Masood quit due to a policy disagreement. Khan informed ICIJ that he had no idea what his son’s business was up to. He said that his son had a simple life and was not financially reliant on him. According to the Pandora Papers, Khan’s former water resources minister, Faisal Vawda, established an offshore firm in 2012 to invest in UK assets. In March, he resigned after a dispute about his dual Pakistani-American citizenship. According to the ICIJ, Vawda has disclosed to Pakistani tax authorities all international assets held in his name.
Khan’s spokeswoman, Gill, said Khan had issued an executive order forcing unelected members of his cabinet to reveal their assets, in addition to the asset declarations currently required by Pakistani law for members of the National Assembly. The papers also provide information about Khan’s financial backers. (Gibbs, M. and Politzer, M., 2021. Prime Minister Imran Khan promised ‘New Pakistan’ but members of his inner circle secretly moved millions offshore – ICIJ. [online] ICIJ. Available at: <https://www.icij.org/investigations/pandora-papers/pakistan-imran-khan-prime-minister-allies-offshore/> [Accessed 4 October 2021].)
Effects of Corruption on Pakistan
They are frequently more reliant on public services and commodities, with limited or no resources to seek out commercial alternatives. Historically, disadvantaged groups have had fewer chances to engage actively in the development and implementation of public policies and programs. They frequently lack the means and expertise necessary to seek recourse. Corruption, revealed by Pandora Papers, involving the unlawful exploitation of land and natural resources has a significant impact on indigenous peoples, given the importance of land, forests, and natural resources in sustaining the uniqueness of their culture and existence.
Natural resource exploitation via unethical methods has resulted in environmental deterioration and has posed a danger to indigenous people’s traditional ways of life as seen in the recent monsoon. The advantages of natural resource extraction may not be distributed fairly. Corruption can jeopardize indigenous people’s ability to participate in natural resource exploitation choices.
According to recent research, there is a clear link between corruption, poverty, and inequality. The lowest sectors of the population, according to the literature, are the ones that suffer the most from corruption since they are more prone to bribe extortion and the number of bribes represents a greater percentage of their income. (Ohchr.org. 2021. [online] Available at: <https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/AdvisoryCom/Corruption/OHCHR.pdf> [Accessed 4 October 2021].)
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