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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has demanded resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the wake of his family’s link to offshore companies revealed in the Panama Papers.

In an around 45-minute televised speech (which the PTI described as address to the nation) from the sprawling lawns of his Banni Gala residence on Sunday, Mr Khan set the deadline of April 24 for the government to respond to his demand for a judicial commission headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) to investigate the prime minister’s alleged link to offshore companies which according to the Panama Papers are owned by the Sharif family.

Imran Khan minced no words when he said: “Mr Prime Minister, the matter has gone too far, and a simple hand-picked commission is not enough, as according to latest evidence you are also direct beneficiary of two offshore companies.”

PTI chief sets April 24 for govt to form CJP-led commission to investigate Panama leaks

He added: “On behalf of the people of Pakistan I demand your resignation because after the Panama Papers, you have lost the moral authority to run the government.”

He said whatever documentary evidence which had so far emerged from the Panama Papers, the prime minister faced the charges of money laundering, corruption, tax evasion and false declaration in the Election Commission of Pakistan. These charges were enough for an elected leader to step aside, he added.

Recalling his party’s 126-day sit-in at the capital’s D-Chowk in 2014, Imran Khan said the PTI had wrapped up that protest because of a tragedy (Dec 16 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar), but this time if the government didn’t listen to him, “I will not go back until the prime minister resigns”.

The PTI had earlier formally asked the chairman of PTV (Pakistan Television) to make arrangements for Imran Khan’s speech via national television, which the government had refused.

The government had argued that only the president and prime minister have the prerogative to speak to people through PTV.

Imran Khan was of the view that as a leader of a major opposition party which got second highest votes (after PML-N) in the last general election, it was his right to explain his point of view on an important national matter.

“If the prime minister can use PTV to explain the position of his family’s controversial business, why cannot I use the same forum,” the PTI chief had said.

Dressed in his favourite white shalwar kameez with black waistcoat and Peshawri Chappal, Imran Khan said in the speech that if the government remained unmoved by April 24 (the day when the PTI will celebrate its 20th foundation day), he would unveil his party’s future course of action.

The venue of the protest this time would not be the capital’s D-Chowk, but the Raiwind residence of the Sharifs, he added.

The PTI chief said the chief justice-headed commission should be assisted by international audit firms and experts of white collar crimes.

However, Imran Khan in his speech didn’t repeat his demand for the setting up of an inquiry commission led by the former chief of Intelligence Bureau, Shoaib Suddle, which he had made earlier in response to an offer of investigation into the Panama leaks by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

The interior minister on Saturday offered the PTI chief to name an FIA (Federal Investigation Agency) team of his choice for inquiry to determine the money trail of the offshore companies owned by two sons and a daughter of Nawaz Sharif.

During the speech, the PTI chief exhorted the leaderships of the National Accountability Bureau, Election Commission of Pakistan, Supreme Court and the FIA to play their role in the aftermath of Panama leaks.

Repeatedly, he called the Panama Papers as a godsend opportunity for the people of Pakistan to get rid of corrupt political elite.

Calling it a defining moment, PTI chief said: “If we don’t wake up now, country will continue to be robbed and people will continue to suffer inhuman living conditions.”

Imran Khan severely criticised Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and termed him the point man to look after the businesses of the Sharif family. It was an irony that a person who had confessed in a 40-page affidavit that he did money laundering for the Sharifs was the in-charge of the nation’s exchequer, he added.

He also criticised Saeed Ahmad, a sitting deputy governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, blaming him of helping Mr Dar in committing money laundering. He aded: “People like Saeed Ahmad and Najam Sethi who fixed elections for the ruling party have been accommodated at various positions.”

Imran Khan said that since the revelation of offshore companies of the Sharif family in the Panama Papers some ministers had been levelling baseless allegations against the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital. “For God sake somebody must tell them the papers have been made public at international level, PTI is not part of any conspiracy.” He said instead of responding to the accusations, the PML-N ministers had started hurling accusations at opposition parties.

Throughout, Imran Khan sprinkled his speech with facts and figures, what he claimed how the present government was ruining the national economy at the cost of poor masses. “Country’s loans have reached to staggering Rs21 trillion, and the PML-N government is adding Rs6 billion every day to this total. Who will repay this loan?”

Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2016