LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: The prime minister, who is visibly perturbed by the crescendoing calls for his resignation, has asked the ruling party to turn a deaf ear to the opposition’s public clamour over the Panama Papers scandal. Deal with each opposition party keeping in mind its numerical strength in parliament, he told senior PML-N leaders in a meeting at the Prime Ministers House on Wednesday.
The meeting was convened a day after nine opposition parties thrashed out parallel terms of reference (ToRs) for a judicial commission the prime minister has requested the country’s top judge to form to investigate claims in the Panama Papers that the Sharif family has set up offshore companies through money laundering.
Wednesday’s session pored over several issues, including the political storm whipped up by the Panama leaks, the opposition’s ToRs, the ruling party’s relationship with the security establishment, and the prime minister’s recent visits to Quetta and Bannu. Not only did they discuss the issues but also charted out a future course for the government.
However, sources in the PML-N said the meeting was fixated on the opposition’s ToRs. The prime minister and his senior aides agreed to engage the opposition in talks in order to pacify frayed public tempers but not to make any commitment on their ToRs, according to sources.
Premier Nawaz said the combined opposition made up only 10% of parliament – but it spoke 200% more than its weight. The opposition has rejected the ToRs formulated by the government saying the Sharif family was named in the Panama leaks. If this is their objection, then why did PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan frame parallel ToRs as three leaders of his party also have offshore holdings, sources quoted the prime minister as saying.
Similarly, how could PTI leaders sit with other opposition parties and draft parallel ToRs as two of its bigwigs, Jahangir Tareen and Aleem Khan, also have offshore companies according to the Panama Papers? Sources said the prime minister and his aides dismissed the opposition’s ToRs as ‘guilty verdict’ against the Sharif family.
The meeting also discussed PTI’s recent public meeting in Lahore, the bastion of PML-N’s power, and noted with satisfaction that the rally had thinned out from Mianr-e-Pakistan to Charing Cross on The Mall. The meeting concurred that the prime minister would continue mass mobilisation through development projects in the country.
Meanwhile insiders told The Express Tribune that the PML-N was working on a two-pronged strategy to blunt PTI’s campaign against the government over the Panama leaks scandal. The government would try and not let the opposition unite while enlisting support of likeminded political groups.
Tuesday’s visit of Premier Nawaz to Bannu, the constituency of Akram Khan Durrani, a top aide of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, was part of this strategy, a senior PML-N leader told The Express Tribune. Maulana Fazl and Durrani defended the government and hit out at Imran at a public rally addressed by the prime minister.
“The other way is to let the people know about the opposition leaders who also have offshore companies, and who have had their loans worth billions of rupees written off,” a source added.
Another PML-N leader said the prime minister was willing to clarify his position on the Panama Papers claims in parliament. “This is being conveyed to the opposition through backdoor contacts,” he said, adding that the opposition was divided on the demand for the resignation of the prime minister.
According to the PML-N leader, the PTI would be given a free hand to stage protest rallies. “We can also stage rallies in response to the PTI’s Jalsas but we will not do that because people know Imran is doing this for personal gains,” PML-N lawmaker Mian Abdul Manan told The Express Tribune.
PML-N Information Secretary Senator Mushahidullah Khan is convinced the government could not be toppled with wishful thinking. “The prime minister has already offered himself up for accountability,” he told The Express Tribune. “Their [opposition’s] ToRs are an attempt to save some of their leaders who didn’t pay back loans worth billions of rupees. If they want accountability of the people of their choice, then this shows they are not serious.”
Courtesy : Express Tribune