ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Opposition parties have begun consultations to devise a strategy, following the release of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report, to forcefully demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

On Tuesday, the leaderships of both the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) held internal meetings, while their parliamentary leaders also met to chalk out a strategy.

PM Sharif’s arch-rival Imran Khan demanded the resignation of not only the prime minister, but also of three other Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq.

Meanwhile, chairing a meeting at Zardari House in Islamabad, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said they were not in contact with the ruling party and demanded that not only Nawaz Sharif, but his entire cabinet also step down.

In a press conference at his Banigala residence, the PTI chief also said that the letter from former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani, which was presented before the Supreme Court as proof of the Sharifs’ money trail for the London flats, had been proved a fraud.

PTI, PPP establish contact; Imran threatens agitation if PM doesn’t step down

Warning the ruling party of “dire consequences” if anything happened to the JIT, Mr Khan said: “Those who are threatening to bring people out on the street, we will show you how people come out of their houses,” he said, taunting the ruling party, which has threatened agitation against the JIT report.

The PTI chairman said his party would soon file a reference against Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif as well.

The JIT report, he said, had revealed that the prime minister’s daughter Mar­yam Nawaz Sharif was the beneficial owner of offshore firms Neilsen and Nescoll, and that she had lied before the Supreme Court.

He said Ishaq Dar was acting as a frontman for Nawaz Sharif and had helped the prime minister launder his money, adding that: “A money launderer was made the guardian of the national exchequer!”

He said the Justice department of Dubai had affirmed that there was no balance in the accounts of Gulf Steel Mills, owned by Sharif family, and that Nawaz Sharif was drawing a salary from a Dubai-based firm.

Talking about his own money-laundering case before the Supreme Court, Mr Khan said he had submitted the money trail of his assets, adding that he was not asked by the apex court to appear in today’s (Wednesday’s) hearing.

PPP stance

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said Prime Minister Sharif had been found guilty of concealing his offshore assets, money laundering, presenting forged documents to the Supreme Court and tax evasion. Therefore, he said, the PM had no legal ground to rule anymore.

“He does not enjoy legal and moral authority and it is better for him and democracy that he should go home,” he added.

The PPP leader asked the ruling party to stop threatening the Supreme Court and the JIT.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said he had tasked Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah to establish contact with all other opposition parties and chalk out a joint strategy to deal with the situation emerging in the wake of the report.

Separately, PTI parliamentary leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi called on Mr Shah at the latter’s Parliament House chambers, where the two men decided to wait for the first hearing of the case on Monday before gearing up to push for the resignation of the prime minister.

Talking to reporters after their meeting, Mr Qureshi said both the PTI and PPP were on the same page — that PM Sharif should resign with immediate effect.

He said that both PTI and PPP had requisitioned a National Assembly session so that the prime minister could be reminded of his promise that he would leave office if the JIT was able to prove anything against him.

Talking to reporters, Mr Shah said it was imperative that democracy should continue and institutions should be strengthened, which was why the prime minster should resign.

He said that in the past, democracy was endangered by PTI’s “container politics”, and now it in danger again because of Nawaz Sharif’s stubbornness and reluctance to step down.

JI and PAT

Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) emir Sirajul Haq, who was also one of the petitioners in the Panama Papers case, said on Tuesday that the JIT report had vindicated the decision of the two dissenting judges — that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is no longer “sadiq and ameen” and should quit his office.

Addressing a press conference at the headquarters of his party in Mansoora, the JI leader said: “It is time for the Supreme Court to quickly finalise the process and pronounce its decision so that corruption is swiftly wiped out from the country”.

He was of the opinion that the decision against the prime minister would not derail democracy, but would help strengthen it, he claimed.

The JIT report on the family of the prime minister was just the tip of the iceberg; there were still thousands of more corrupt, waiting to be investigated. These men had also looted the country and stashed massive amounts in foreign lands, he said.

Praising the investigators, he said: “It was a heroic [task] on the part of the JIT members to come up with such a comprehensive report.”

Dr Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek also joined the chorus of voices demanding the resignation of the prime minister and called on him to face the charges against him in a court of law.

The demand came during a meeting of the party’s core committee, which was also addressed by Dr Qadri. The party decided to hold a protest march from Punjab Assembly to the Chief Minister’s House on Saturday to press for the inclusion of the Sharifs and their accomplices in the Model Town case.

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2017