- PML-N govt looks confused, its ministers visibly edgy during media interactions after apex court puts PM, others on notice over Panamagate
- Nawaz welcomes court proceedings, but holds opp responsible for prolonged delay into a transparent inquiry of matter by a judicial commission, Says he believes in supremacy of constitution and rule of law
After the Supreme Court of Pakistan issued notices to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other respondents on Thursday over the petitions seeking his disqualification on account of Panamagate, the federal government looked perturbed and confused while its ministers seemed visibly edgy during their media interactions.
Perhaps the civil-military tensions, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Islamabad lockdown plan and the apex court’s sudden move to accept the petitions for a probe into the Panamagate has triggered a storm in the rank and file of the ruling party.
Prime Minister Sharif chaired several meetings throughout the day at the Prime Minister’s House to evaluate the situation and formalise the government’s strategy to handle the situation.
Well-placed sources in the ruling party told Pakistan Today that the prime minister had been advised to consult the allies of the ruling party, take on board both the houses of parliament and reach out to those minor political parties who had been ignored in the past.
“You will see some visible changes in the government’s plan as the prime minister has given approvals to some of the proposals while some others are being discussed further,” said a source without going into details.
A cabinet member requesting anonymity, however, said that no strategy had yet been finalised by the prime minister to deal with the PTI’s lockdown plan, explaining that there were just different proposals being discussed at the various levels.
“The prime minister is only listening to these proposals. It is quite strange that whenever there is civil-military strife, the PTI springs up with a protest plan,” opined the minister.
Asked to elaborate further, the cabinet member said that there was confusion among the cabinet members whether or not the PTI had blessings of the establishment. “If there is anything behind their protests, it is alarming. Else, we better know how to deal with Imran Khan,” the minister added.
The ruling party’s leader said that the recent leak to the media was an immature move by someone from among the hawks around the prime minister which had badly hurt his and his family’s cause.
“Whosoever has leaked the information to the media has done the biggest disservice to the government,” he said, adding that the prime minister would come up with a final strategy by the weekend.
“I believe Lahore will be the place where a final strategy will be worked out as the Punjab chief minister and other party leaders will also be present,” the source maintained.
Earlier in the day, the apex court took up five petitions regarding the Panama controversy involving the premier and several others. A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, issued notices to the prime minister, his family members and others in the constitutional petitions filed by the PTI, Jamaat-e-Islami, Barrister Zafarullah Khan of the Watan Party, Awami Muslim League head Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed and advocate Asad seeking disqualification of the prime minister and his family members.
The petitions maintain that the premier and his dependants were involved in establishing offshore firms as exposed by the Panama Papers, and that the premier concealed assets of his dependants and also concealed the truth from the National Assembly. They also add that he is no longer eligible to hold the office under Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution.
“Attorney general of Pakistan (AGP) and his team also briefed the premier over the hearing of the Panama case in the apex court. The briefing covered all possible aspects of the case. The prime minister also approved a media plan to tackle the PTI’s lockdown plan,” a source told this scribe.
In a policy statement over the development, Prime Minister Sharif welcomed the hearing of the Panama Papers case by the Supreme Court, saying he believed in the supremacy of the constitution, rule of law and transparency.
“I welcome the court proceedings in connection with Panama Papers. Since the matter (Panamagate) is with the apex court, Lahore High Court as well as Election Commission of Pakistan, it will be appropriate for the opposition to wait for the verdict,” the prime minister said.
The premier held the opposition responsible for the prolonged delay into a transparent inquiry of the matter by a judicial commission comprising retired judges, saying he had not only made his stance on the matter clear in the National Assembly and before the people, but had also announced a commission to probe Panamagate.
“In response, the only demand was made was to form a commission headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan and comprising sitting judges of the apex court. I also accepted this demand without any reservation. But then a new controversy come to the fore about the Terms of Reference (ToRs) for the Commission which hindered the court proceedings,” the statement quoted the premier as saying.
The statement added that the government then formed a committee to prepare unanimous ToRs (terms of reference) in view of the points raised by the apex court.
“The opposition was given equal representation in the ToRs committee despite the fact that the treasury members enjoyed majority in parliament. But, despite all-out efforts, no consensus could be reached on the ToRs,” the statement said, and added that the government had also presented a bill in parliament to frame new ToRs.
“But, a parallel bill was presented (in parliament) with a negative intent and in violation of the constitutional and legal provisions,” the prime minister said.
He added that he had addressed the nation twice besides presenting his viewpoint in the National Assembly but the government’s efforts were confronted and blocked. “While the court of people has been making its decisions, it would be better to wait for the judiciary’s decision,” concluded the premier.