ISLAMABAD: In the absence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, senior PML-N leaders met in his office to thrash out a strategy to handle the opposition in the wake of the Panama Leaks. Maryam Nawaz was a key participant at the meeting.

According to a press release, the sitting was presided over by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, but an official at the PM Office said its pivot was Ms Maryam, the premier’s daughter.

She came up with her opinions and suggestions on a number of issues under discussion.

“Unlike her earlier presence in certain meetings chaired by the prime minister, this time Maryam Nawaz actively participated in deliberations and, at times, sounded in command,” said the official.

He said Ms Maryam thought that the ruling party had not put up an adequate defence of the prime minister and his family on the Panama Papers leak. She called for a “robust defence” at all levels.

She also took the lead in rejecting the opposition’s demand for a judicial commission led by a serving judge, let alone the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

“If at all the commission is formed it will be the one headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court as announced by the prime minister in his address to the nation,” the meeting decided, according a PML-N source.

For independent observers, it appeared that while her father is in London for a ‘medical check-up’, Ms Maryam has decided to actively take part in both political and government issues.

The meeting, also attended by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, decided to reach out to all political parties to present the government’s viewpoint on the Panama Papers. It discussed terms of reference (ToRs) of the proposed judicial commission for investigation into allegations levelled against the Sharif family for money laundering and tax evasion to set up offshore companies.

According to the ToRs, the commission will be fully empowered to look into allegations against the Sharif family as well as other Pakistanis mentioned in the Panama Papers. If possible, more than one judge can be made part of the commission, which will have all institutions in it, including the State Bank.

Talking to Dawn, PML-N leader Mushahidullah Khan, who was present in the meeting, said that although Ms Maryam looked after the media side, she had in the past also attended such high-level meetings chaired by the prime minister.

He said the government was ready to constitute the judicial commission and even discussed its ToRs at the meeting, but the opposition appeared to be divided on it.

“We have decided to contact all opposition parties, including the PTI, and, depending on their input, will take a decision on the formation of the commission. At the moment, the PTI wants a CJP-led commission, while the PPP demands a parliamentary committee to investigate the Panama leaks,” Senator Khan said, adding that let’s see how the situation developed in coming days.

According to the PM Office official, the prime minister’s return from London will depend on the advice of his doctors because he was genuinely unwell.

According to the official statement, the meeting decided to forcefully defend the prime minister and his family at all forums against the “ridiculous accusations by those who wanted to achieve their ulterior motives through propaganda”.

The meeting regretted that some elements had once again become active to derail the democratic system only to fulfill their personal agendas. It decided to keep the nation aware of the designs of the elements which wanted to ruin the country economically.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2016



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