ISLAMABAD: Rather than adopting a hard-hitting stance against the government, opposition parties on Tuesday agreed instead to use their presence in the national and provincial assemblies to remind Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of his promise to hold a free and fair investigation into the Panamagate scandal.

One significant outcome from the meeting was that the opposition would hold no more negotiations with the government over the ToR issue.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had invited opposition parties to plot their future course of action after the government refused to accept their Terms of Reference (ToR) for a Panama-specific probe.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the combined opposition had decided to pass Panama-specific resolutions from the Senate, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh assemblies where they held a majority. Moreover, Mr Qureshi said a special bill would be moved in parliament, titled ‘Corruption Bill for Panama Investigations’.

Opposition meeting to decide on protest plan if govt continues to stonewall inquiry efforts

Talking to Dawn, Dr Shireen Mazari said, “If the government wants to move ahead, it should accept our ToR, as all eleven opposition parties have decided there will be more discussion on the subject.”

Meanwhile, she said, all legal and political available to the opposition would be utilised to put pressure on the government.

To a question, Ms Mazari said that in order to determine a specific timeline over when opposition parties should hit the roads if the government continued to stonewall their efforts, a meeting of all opposition party leaders had been proposed at Tuesday’s meeting.

To another question, Dr Mazari said participants of the meeting also resolved to give the government a tough time in the national and provincial legislatures, at least until it agreed to set up the proposed Panama Papers inquiry commission.

One participant of the meeting told Dawn that the Awami National Party (ANP) and Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) wanted to “go slow” and opposed the idea of demanding the PM’s resignation, whereas the PTI and PPP sounded more aggressive. However, there was a consensus among all participants that the issue of Panamagate should be taken to its logical conclusion, come what may.

According to another participant, Sheikh Rashid Ahmad and Israrullah Zehri of the Balochistan National Party-Awami were in favour of resigning from parliament if the government didn’t agree to an investigation.

Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) Senator Kamil Ali Agha was of the view that after quitting parliament, all opposition parties should launch a joint protest against the government.

When asked to sum up proceedings of the meeting, a veteran lawmaker who attended the meeting said, “I don’t think all these parties will agree on one point as far as a joint anti-government movement is concerned.”

Sooner or later, the PTI will have to distance itself from this alliance because it is the only party that is serious in mobilising the masses. Otherwise, the legislator said, the rest of the lot, especially the PPP, wanted to the issue of the Panama Papers to drag on.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2016



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