ISLAMABAD: Resolving to hasten the process of setting up a commission to investigate the allegations thrown up by the Panama Papers leak, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday warned that those who tried to create instability in the country had failed in the past and would not succeed in the future either.
Addressing a special darbar-like sitting of senior members of the cabinet, advisers and party leaders, the prime minister said that his “opponents are worried that if the present government completes its five-year term, they will be left far behind politically”.
At the same time, PM Sharif, who is also the president of the ruling party, observed, “our hands are clean, and we have emerged successfully from even the most stringent of accountability”.
In the aftermath of the Panama Papers leak and the publicising of a GHQ decision to dismiss at least six officers, the prime minister’s rather direct remarks have been viewed with great interest.
According to a senior government minister who was also present in the meeting, the prime minister also endorsed the idea of writing to the chief justice for the constitution of a commission — something that has been demanded by both main opposition parties, PTI and PPP.
“There is every likelihood that a letter will be written to the CJP within a day or two,” the minister claimed.
In a detailed press statement released after the meeting, the prime minister highlighted his government’s economic progress over the past three years, and explained how he intended to spend his remaining couple of years in office. “By 2018, there will be no loadshedding in the country,” he vowed.
When asked whether the gathering discussed the sacking of army officers, an aide to the prime minister said that the news broke after the meeting at the PM’s Office had ended. However, he said, “The PM knew of these dismissals beforehand as he had received a detailed briefing a few weeks ago about the inquiry against army officers.”
According to a participant of the meeting, the sitting remained focused on the opposition’s demand for a CJP-led judicial commission to investigate all the Pakistanis whose names had appeared in the Panama Papers, including the PM’s three children.
“All sorts of suggestions were made: some argued in favour of a parliamentary committee, others said let’s go ahead with the option of retired judge-headed commission,” said the participant.
However, there was a broad agreement to resolve the issue as soon as possible, because a delay would only provide opposition parties more ammunition against the government.
He said that one of the ministers in the meeting was of the view that the opposition was only whipping up the Panama leaks for political gains and that the matter should be handled politically, inside parliament, because they would continue to demand more and more outside the house. Basically, the minister was advocating the formation of a parliamentary commission.
However, according to other participants, the prime minister seemed to be trying to avoid setting up a commission under a retired judge and wanted the investigations to satisfy the opposition.
At one point, the prime minister said, “I want to settle this issue once and for all, therefore the investigations need to be constitutionally, technically and legally airtight,” the aide said.
Another aide claimed that the prime minister looked confident throughout the meeting. It was due to his calm demeanour that, at one point, while explaining the different options available to the government, the law minister quipped “Prime minister, you always have the option of fresh elections to satisfy the opposition.”
During the sitting, the PM also took government members into confidence over his medical problems and updated them on his recent medical check-up in London.
Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2016