ISLAMABAD: The main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party launched a two-pronged attack on Wednesday, accusing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of accentuating the crisis by refusing to probe the Panama Papers leaks scandal and condemning Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf of indulging in a ‘criminal act’ by threatening to lock down the country’s capital.

Speaking at a news conference, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah was at pains to send across the signal that in the latest tussle the PPP was neither with the government nor with Mr Khan’s street protest.

“Everyone has a political right to hold protests, rallies or sit-ins, but sealing a city or an area is not a political right. It is a criminal activity as it causes hardship to the citizens,” he said.

“Sealing Islamabad is like sealing Pakistan. This is not protest, but a criminal act,” the PPP leader said, adding: “I don’t know who has advised Imran Khan to say it on record.”

Read: Can a PTI crowd bring down an elected government?

Mr Shah said neither the government nor the PTI had contacted the PPP about the planned Nov 2 protest by the opposition party. He said the PTI was fond of taking ‘solo flights’.

He said Mr Khan had categorically announced that Nov 2 would be his last protest and sit-in. “Let’s see what happens? Earlier, he had announced that he would not return from Raiwind,” he added.

Mr Shah said Mr Khan’s protest strategy was in fact strengthening the government which was otherwise on a weak ground.

The PPP leader said it was regrettable that the country had a prime minister who did not even know the real issues of the masses.

Commenting on the prime minister’s claim regarding reduction in the prices of essential commodities, Mr Shah said he was sure that neither Nawaz Sharif nor his wife used to go to market to buy tomatoes and potatoes. About the claim that potatoes were being sold for Rs25 per kilogramme, he said it appeared that an adviser had given wrong information to the prime minister to appease him.

Mr Shah regretted that the prime minister appeared oblivious to farmers protesting on the roads.

Military appointments

Replying to a question, Mr Shah suggested that the government appoint the most senior person in the army as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and the second most senior as the army chief. He said the government should not hesitate in making these appointments on the basis of the seniority lists as happened in the case of the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, PPP Senator Rubina Khalid said in a statement: “Two favourites of the establishment, Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, are making a mockery of democracy as both of them are not trained as democrats.”

The senator said the Panama Papers revelation about offshore wealth was a fact and the prime minister could not avoid giving answers in this regard.

She said parliament was the best forum to resolve such issues but both the leaders did not believe in strengthening it.

She also said that protest was a right of every citizen but no one should be allowed to create havoc in the name of protest.

She said the PTI chief had time for sit-ins but not for resolving issues being faced by the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In reaction to the PPP leaders’ criticism, PTI’s senior vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi alleged in a statement that the PPP’s leadership was in a “state of confusion” over the Panama leaks issue.

He claimed there were divisions in the PPP on the issue as its leaders like Aitzaz Ahsan, Mr Shah and some others talked about the prime minister’s accountability, but party chief Asif Zardari wanted “closeness” with him.

He said it was time for the PPP to decide whether it wanted to hold the prime minister accountable or defend him.

Published in Dawn October 20th, 2016