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ISLAMABAD: The country’s two major opposition parties on Thursday questioned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s “written speech” after his appearance before the JIT and refuted his claim that the Sharif family had been facing accountability for a long time.

Reacting over the prime minister’s speech outside the Federal Judicial Aca­de­my (FJA) after appearing before the Supreme Court-appointed Joint Investigation Team (JIT), the leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lashed out at PM Sharif for terming the accountability process a “conspiracy” against the country and democracy and for indirectly blaming the “establishment” for it.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan in a video message said the speech made by the PM was old and that he had already read it before.

Mr Khan alleged that the prime minister had not provided any new or vital information to the JIT to show the trail of money with which the Sharif family had bought “palaces” in London. He said the Sharifs were depending upon the letter written by Qatari Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim and since the prince had refused to appear before the court, they had been left with nothing to show the money trail.

Mr Khan said it was “most shameful” that the prime minister in his speech had portrayed the ongoing investigations against him and his family as a “conspiracy”. Moreover, he said, the prime minister had indirectly blamed the army and the judiciary for this conspiracy.

The PTI chief expressed surprise that the ruling party members were pointing fingers at the two institutions at a time when they had the army chief and the chief justice in whom they had complete “confidence”. He recalled that at the retirement of the former army chief Gen Raheel Sharif, the prime minister’s daughter Mariam Nawaz had tweeted that the “storm had passed”, meaning that “the situation have become favourable for them”.

Separately, speaking at a news conference, PTI leaders Asad Umar and Fawad Chaudhry challenged the prime minister to hold early general elections in the country to test his popularity.

Responding to PM Sharif’s remarks that the “people’s JIT” would give its judgement next year, Mr Chaudhry asked the prime minister not to wait for the next year and use his special powers to dissolve the assembly and announce the elections.

PTI MNA from Islamabad Asad Umar also refuted the prime minister’s claim that he had presented himself for accountability, saying that Mr Sharif had no option since he and his sons had been directed to appear before the JIT by the Supreme Court in its order in the Panama Papers case.

Mr Umar said the prime minister had finally appeared before the JIT succumbing to public pressure for which Imran Khan ran a successful campaign.

Mr Chaudhry also rejected Mr Sharif’s claim that he and his family had already faced strict accountability during the military regime of Gen Pervez Musharraf.

Meanwhile, objecting to Mr Sharif’s claim that no prime minister had faced such accountability, vice president of the PPP Senator Sherry Rehman said that such “shocking amnesia” about the history of democracy in this country was not expected from those who had witnessed the struggle of the PPP from safe havens.

“The PPP’s first prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto faced his judicial execution without flinching, while his daughter faced all sorts of jail sentences and courts through her life. Former president Zardari was tortured in 12 years of prison with no plea bargain and for­­mer prime minister You­suf Raza Gilani stood in the docks, bowed his head and stepped down. Raja Pervez Ashraf is still answering for rental power cases that this government has adopted with other names, and they say no one has faced accountability like this?” asked Ms Rehman.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2017