WEB DESK: It’s been four months since the Panama Papers revealed that like some of the world’s rich and powerful, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family owned expensive properties in London bought through offshore companies.
Despite opposition parties’ relentless efforts to find out, through a formal probe, the origin and mode of transfer of the money with which those properties were purchased and whether or not the family had paid tax on it, the issue remains stuck where it was when the Panama revelations scandal first hit the headlines.
The political parties, united on the single point of holding the PM to account for his family’s involvement in the scandal, have been in discussions with the government to decide the terms of reference under which a judicial commission is to investigate the case. Last month, they announced there will no further discussion on the ToRs as the government is not serious.
There is no way the government can agree on the ToRs that the combined opposition wants, especially the one that calls for starting accountability from the Prime Minister. He, of course, cannot invite his own ruin. The strategy therefore is to buy time by dragging on and on the ToRs conversation, keeping the opposition distracted from its accountability demands. Hence has been called an ’emergency meeting’ of the parliamentary committee on ToRs for August 6. Nothing positive is going to come out of it.
The government side’s strategy is pretty clear; but the opposition’s is rather intriguing. The PTI is preparing to take to the streets starting August 7 from Peshawar to press for the PM’s accountability. Every Sunday, he is to lead protest march from a different city.
The Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) leader Tahirul Qadri has announced his own phased, countrywide protests to demand investigations into the Panama revelations involving the PM’s family as well as to seek justice for the 14 victims of police firing at his party’s Lahore headquarters. The other day, he also hosted a political parties consultative meeting, which decided to form a joint action committee comprising besides Qadri himself, PPP Secretary-General Latif Khosa, representatives from the PTI, MQM, and PML-Q, and of course Sheikh Rashid of the AML. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has already said his party would start its protest movement in September after a new organisational structure is in place. Although many doubt the party’s seriousness, but this time around it can ill afford to play ‘friendly opposition.’
For, first of all, there is no quid pro quo. And second of all, the PPP badly needs to revive its support base in Punjab, severely damaged by misgovernance during the party’s last stint in power at the Centre and the top leadership’s habit of making political compromises at the expense of public interest. Any unsavoury compromise at this point in time will put paid to the party’s prospects of revival.
Whilst the opposition parties are gearing up to start an anti-government movement, none of them, including the PTI, seems to be thinking of taking the fight to the finish. Interestingly, Imran Khan is no longer demanding Nawaz Sharif’s resignation. In an unusual display of patience, he has said his party would participate in the parliamentary committee’s August 6 meeting on ToRs.
Furthermore, the PTI alongside the PPP, PAT, and Sheikh Rashid’s AML have filed petitions with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seeking the PM’s disqualification and four of his relatives for alleged money laundering, tax evasion, and concealment of assets. The PTI is also said to be considering taking Mian Sahib to the Supreme Court. In other words, Imran is in no hurry. The plan is to use every relevant forum even though legal processes in this country take forever to come to conclusion. Besides, the system acts only in the interest of the party in power. Why then would the opposition mount legal challenges against the PM in the ECP or the apex court?
As it is, general elections are less than two years away. Hence, it appears the opposition is not interested in the PM’s ouster at this point in time, what it wants is to keep the corruption case alive through pressure tactics. The ECP can take all the time it needs, but the proceedings will not let the people forget the PML-N leader’s involvement in the suspected mega corruption case when the next elections time comes.
The longer the issue drags on in the ECP or the apex court the better from the opposition’s perspective. It will help to point the finger at Mian Nawaz Sharif as someone who does not pay his taxes, and uses illegal means to transfer money abroad to acquire expensive properties. The opposition protests therefore are expected to be a low key affair aimed at winning the higher prize of electoral success.
But if for some reason the push comes to shove things might change earlier than expected. One possibility, albeit a remote one, is that the Supreme Court might take suo motu notice of the Panama leaks scandal as it relates to the PM’s person. And if some reports are to be believed, Mian Sahib’s ally, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, is advising him to move up to the president’s office so he can claim, like former president Asif Ali Zardari, immunity from law suits.
It would be unsurprising if Mian Sahib takes the advice seriously. That way he can maintain hold on his party and install his heir apparent, daughter Maryam Nawaz, in the PM’s office under his own protective gaze. Things, however, do not always turn out as planned.
Source: Business Recorder