KOTLI: Coming out strongly against the government, PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Saturday called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down, until an inquiry into the money laundering allegations levelled at his family was completed.

“As long as the investigations into the Panama leaks are ongoing, you should resign. You can resume [office] when you are absolved of the charges,” he said, reminding Mr Sharif of the advice he had given former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani when the latter was facing multiple charges, including allegations of involvement in the Haj scam as well as contempt of court.

He was speaking at a public rally in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) held to kickstart his party’s election campaign ahead of elections for the AJK Legislative Assembly, where the party has held power since 2011.

“Your days are already numbered. Today, you have been reduced to the level where you rush to Russia one day and head to London the next for a check-up. You send one representative to Germany and another to the US, and when all this doesn’t work, you rush to Panama and woo their finance minister,” he said.

Accusing the prime minister of letting business interests dictate his policies, Mr Bhutto-Zardari exclaimed, “Alas! You have been the prime minister thrice, but you could not become a leader.”


Attacks PM Sharif’s relationship with Modi, accuses govt of ignoring human rights violations in India-held Kashmir


“You also know very well that your government will not be able to complete its constitutional term, which is why you have announced rallies across the country, in anticipation of snap polls,” he said, echoing what PTI chief Imran Khan had been advocating in recent days.

This is the first time the party has blatantly called for the PM to step down in the wake of allegations — thrown up by the Panama Papers leaks — that his children owned offshore companies.

Earlier this month, party leaders had repeatedly termed the PTI’s call for the PM’s resignation as ‘premature’, saying it was too early to demand anyone’s resignation on the basis of the leaks.

Kashmir-baiting?

Throughout his speech, the PPP chairman repeatedly attacked the PM for going soft on his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi. Playing on local sentiment against PM Sharif over what he called the government’s “obliviousness” to the human rights violations in India-held Kashmir, he said, “Nawaz Sharif has not spoken strongly on the Kashmir issue for the past three years, let alone condemning atrocities in [India-held Kashmir].”

Former prime ministers Yousuf Raza Gil­ani, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, AJK PM Chaudhry Abdul Majeed and senior minister Chaudhry Mohammad Yasin also spoke on the occasion.

Govt reaction

The ruling PML-N, however, dismissed Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s outburst, maintaining that the party chief was twisting the facts to suit his agenda.

“Instead of demanding PM Sharif’s resignation, he should have asked for one from Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, who has plunged the beautiful region of AJK into the depths of dilapidation, corruption and bad governance,” Dr Asif Saeed Kirmani, special assistant to the prime minister, told Dawn.

He also deplored the PPP leader’s “irrational demand” for the PM’s resignation, saying that “he (Bilawal) does not know that the prime minister does not figure anywhere in the Panama Papers. The names of his children are there, and they will clear themselves when­ever a commission is constituted,” he said.

On the Kashmir-specific allegations, Dr Kirmani said that it was PM Sharif who revived this issue at the UN and all other international forums.

Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2016

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