ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is to hold talks with Switzerland on a new tax treaty in the hope of retrieving state assets illegally stashed in the European country’s secretive banking system, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told the National Assembly on Friday.
Dar told parliament negotiations on a revised agreement with Switzerland would be held from August 26 to 28. Switzerland enacted a new law in 2011 to make it easier for countries to recover assets stolen by politicians and hidden in its banks. In early 2012, Switzerland said it had returned $1.83 billion in illicitly-placed assets to countries involved in the Arab Spring regime changes, but Pakistan’s current tax agreement does not allow it to take advantage of the law.
In a written reply to the lower house of parliament, Dar said the government was “seriously working to seek help of the new Swiss laws... to exchange heretofore confidential information about ill-gotten monies stashed up in the clandestine Swiss banking industry.” Dar said the Swiss authorities have expressed willingness to renegotiate the current Pak-Swiss agreement.
Meanwhile, with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s protest over alleged rigging in the last year’s general elections drawing nearer, the National Assembly on Friday turned into a “debating club” between the PML-N government and the opposition PTI, as both engaged in a “verbal tug of war” to bring down the other to its knees for the second consecutive day.
The “verbal showdown”, however, remained decent, as Shah Mehmood Qureshi, PTI’s deputy parliamentary leader in the House, took the lead to plead his party’s stance versus Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq, who confronted Imran Khan the other day on the same issue. Qureshi targeted the election tribunals which were supposed to dispose of election petitions within 120 days, accusing them of delaying the matter, due to which his party has lost hope for justice.
He said that the independent commissions constituted by the election tribunals have already pointed out massive irregularities in the four constituencies pointed out by the PTI – NA-125, NA-154, NA-110 and NA-122 – all of which are now held by the PML-N now, yet the tribunals are not disposing of the cases. He proposed the ruling PML-N to give in writing its nod to the Supreme Court on the next hearing for “opening” eight constituencies – four pointed out by each party – so that the truth could be reached.
Qureshi said that his party has decided to protest after waiting for one year for the election tribunals which, he added, was quite justified. He appealed to the democracy-loving forces to join their protest tomorrow (Sunday) in Islamabad. Qureshi said his party will hold a peaceful protest, as it is their democratic and political right to raise voice against the “rigging”. In reply to the opposition’s proposal, Khawaja Saad Rafique said his party was ready to endorse a procedure for the verification of votes, which leads to the constitution of a fact-finding committee. “We are not willing for voters’ thumb impression verification, as the ink used in the elections was substandard. We are ready to sit with the opposition party during the ongoing session and agree on some other procedure for verification of votes in eight constituencies,” he said.
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