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LAHORE: A day before the submission of the Joint Investigation Team’s report to the Supreme Court, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s close aides on Sunday threw down the gauntlet at Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan and the “script writers of sit-in-III”, cautioning that any ‘plan’ to send the premier home in the Panama Papers case would be counterproductive and people would not accept it.

The ruling party also declared that it had “full knowledge” of those involved in the conspiracy to oust Nawaz Sharif and also warned the apex court against giving any ‘direct’ verdict in the Panama Papers case.

In a veiled reference to the military establishment and judiciary, Railways Minister Khwaja Saad Rafique in Lahore, Defence Minister Khwaja Asif in Sialkot and MNA Talal Chaudhry in Islamabad spoke the same language that “conspiracies are in full swing to oust Nawaz Sharif” but in such a scenario the masses are standing by the PML-N to fight its case.

Saad Rafique says JIT probing offshore holdings of Sharif family has carried out inquiry with ‘a certain mindset’

Mr Rafique and Mr Asif spoke at public meetings in an apparent move to keep PML-N workers mobilised and in high spirits in case of any adverse outcome.

The PTI says the PML-N is openly accusing the army and the Supreme Court of conspiring against it (PML-N) to build pressure on them in the Panama Papers case so that Nawaz Sharif could be given relief in it.

Speaking to party workers in Nishat Colony here, Mr Rafique talked about the players behind the conspiracy against the premier. “We have full knowledge of everyone involved in the conspiracy. When we tell him (Nawaz) about the conspiracy he asks us to have patience as he has a big heart. But how long we will continue showing patience? Why there is a one law for the premier and other for anyone else?”

Mr Rafique further said the JIT probing the offshore holdings of the Sharif family had carried out the investigation with a “certain mindset”. “The JIT has one-sided attitude. The purpose of constitution of JIT was different and it had started taking different line. We will accept the court’s verdict but if we have reservations over it we will speak about it as well.”

The minister said the premier and politicians were being discredited. “What is happening (to Nawaz) today already happened to seven to eight prime ministers in Pakistan.”

Khwaja Asif said despite conspiracies Nawaz Sharif would become premier for the fourth time after winning 2018 elections. He said Nawaz Sharif could not be removed by anyone as the people had elected him.

He said the former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani was ready to answer the JIT questions, but it seemed to be reluctant (to record his statement). He reiterated his demand that all proceedings of the JIT be made public.

He said: “Imran Khan is inviting institutions to step in. He wants match fixing and his role in politics is like that of a 12th player who is trying to enter the field (power) after injury to any player (Nawaz).”

MNA Talal Chaudhry said: “Those who hanged Zulfikar Ali Bhutto also want to kill Nawaz Sharif politically.”

He said the Supreme Court would either dismiss the Panama Papers case or order filing a reference after submission of the JIT report. “In case the SC goes for a third option then this will be questioned,” he said.

PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn that seeing possible disqualification of Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N leaders had started openly targeting the army and the Supreme Court.

“Those ministers and PML-N leaders giving open threats to the SC should be tried under contempt of court. Like some other institutions, the Sharifs want the army and the apex court subservient to them,” he said.

Abid Mehdi contributed to this report from Sialkot

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2017