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LAHORE: Raising questions about the proceedings of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) about his family’s financial affairs in the wake of the Panama Papers revelations, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that he will “bravely face conspiracies” and will not let them succeed.

Talking to reporters on his arrival in London on Saturday, he said: “To be honest, what is going on in the form of the joint investigation team’s probe into the Panama Papers case is beyond my comprehension. When they found no corruption in any of the PML-N government’s projects during its four-year rule, they are trying to find something (fishy) in our (private) business. I ask the JIT what it is trying to detect.” He said that he should be given an explanation for the taking over of his family’s industrial units by the government in the 1970s.

Mr Sharif said all his tenures as prime minister were before the people and claimed that no one could raise a finger at him with regard to any financial corruption.

JIT started with a WhatsApp call, says Sharif

“I had asked the JIT members during my appearance before it about what they were looking for. Our worst enemies [an apparent reference to the PPP’s Rehman Malik] are appearing before it.

“The JIT’s history is before everyone. It starts with a WhatApp call [by the Supreme Court registrar]... and even before that.”

The prime minister said the nation was headed in one direction and the JIT in another.

“The Panama theatre is on at the time when the country is progressing. Our political opponents who are conspiring know that the PML-N will win the 2018 elections and that is why they are hatching conspiracies against us,” he said and added that the Panama Papers case was not about “our accountability but it is a joke”. Earlier the prime minister left Saudi Arabia for London amid reports that efforts are under way to arrange his meeting with Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari.

Mr Sharif will have his medical check-up in London and celebrate Eidul Fitr there. He will also attend the graduation ceremony of his grandson Junaid (son of Maryam Nawaz). The prime minister is likely to return home on June 29.

Sources in the PPP told Dawn that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had been trying its best to arrange a meeting of Mr Sharif with Mr Zardari, who was also staying in London. “Some common friends have started their efforts to connect the premier with the former president. If they do not succeed in arranging the meeting of the duo they may explore telephonic contact between the two leaders,” the source said, adding that the premier was desperate to have the support of the main opposition party (PPP) because he did not seem to be finding a way out of the Panama Papers case.

Mr Zardari had come to the rescue of Nawaz Sharif during the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Islamabad sit-in in 2014 and advised him — according to Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah — not to resign. The PPP also backed the premier in parliament that time giving a ‘strong message’ that it (PPP) is standing by him to protect democracy.

“But this time Mr Sharif may not find the support of Mr Zardari. At this stage giving any support to the PML-N leadership amounts to stabbing the PPP politically,” a senior PPP leader told Dawn. He said the PPP leadership had already advised Mr Sharif to resign and give his replacement in the parliament. “The premier should honourably resign and face the joint investigation team’s probe into his alleged money laundering. This is the only option,” he said, adding that former interior minister Rehman Malik’s appearance before the JIT and submitting a report about alleged money laundering by Nawaz Sharif and his family members showed the “mood of the PPP leadership”.

Senator Farhatullah Babar, spokesman for the former president, told Dawn that no meeting of PM Sharif and Mr Zardari had been scheduled in London. “Mr Zardari is leaving London for Dubai on Sunday and from there he will return to Pakistan,” he said.

Minister of State for Information Maryam Aurangzeb did not reply to Dawn’s query about the premier’s ‘possible contact’ with Mr Zardari in London.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2017