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LAHORE: The visit of beleaguered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday to the residence of former prime minister and PPP leader Yousuf Raza Gilani to felicitate him on the recovery of his kidnapped son is being seen by some PPP leaders as part of his efforts to ease the pressure on him by the combined opposition for explaining his position following the revelation of offshore companies owned by members of his family.

The leaked Panama Papers revealed that three British Virgin Islands-based companies are owned by the prime minister’s two sons Hussain and Hasan and daughter Maryam.

The PPP is a part of the combined opposition and its chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has publicly demanded resignation of the prime minister.

“The visit of Shahbaz Sharif a few days back and PM Sharif on Saturday to the Gilani House is a gesture to have political opponents at their side in this testing time. Had the purpose of their visit been to congratulate Mr Gilani on the safe return of his son alone they could also have gone to the residence of slain governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer to congratulate his family on the return of his kidnapped son Shahbaz Taseer,” a PPP leader from central Punjab told Dawn.

He said that because of the pressure, Mr Sharif was getting ‘social’ with his political opponents these days.

During the visit, Mr Sharif was accompanied by his wife Kalsoom and son Hussain. Their meeting with Mr Gilani and his family lasted an hour.

Mr Gilani told Dawn after the meeting that the Sharif family congratulated them on the safe return of Ali Haider Gilani.

“They told us that they had prayed for Ali Haider’s safe return,” Mr Gilani said, dismissing reports that the issue of Panama leaks was discussed during the meeting. However, according to sources, Mr Sharif and Mr Gilani also discussed the current political situation.

The prime minister was reported to have said that his government wanted to take the opposition along with it on all issues the country was facing these days.

PPP secretary general Latif Khosa said that Mr Sharif was facing “immense pressure” after names of his children were revealed in the Panama leaks. “Mr Sharif is trying his best to dilute the pressure of the Panama leaks,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2016