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ISLAMABAD: Amidst growing calls for his resignation, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has convened an emergency meeting of the federal cabinet today (Thursday) to take his ministers and coalition partners into confidence over the situation that has arisen following the release of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report.

Also on Wednesday, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) continued to highlight “discrepancies” in the JIT’s findings.

Sources said the prime minister is expected to seek an endorsement from the cabinet in the form of a resolution or a declaration, apart from briefing members about the party’s strategy to challenge the JIT report the Supreme Court.

The decision to convene the cabinet was taken during an “informal meeting” at the Prime Minister’s House, attended by members of PM Sharif’s kitchen cabinet and his legal team, including Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and the prime minister’s daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif were also present in the meeting, the third such huddle in as many days. The prime minister’s daughter expressed a similar resolve, tweeting

Maryam takes to Twitter to declare PM won’t resign; information minister denies internal rifts

on Wednesday night: “Insh’Allah he won’t resign. Should Nawaz Sharif resign because not a single allegation of misuse of public money has been proven against him?”

Sources said participants in the meeting were dismayed over some of the nasty remarks made by the JIT members about the Sharif family and decided that the lawyers would raise the issue before the Supreme Court, with a request to expunge them from the report.

The JIT, in its report, highlighted that the prime minister was “non-committal” about the two letters furnished before the Supreme Court by the former Qatari prime minister.

Similarly, the JIT members had termed retired Capt Muhammad Safdar, the PM’s son-in-law, “untruthful, dishonest, deceitful and shifty on many accounts displaying wanting conduct”.

The prime minister, sources said, has already nominated Khawaja Harris to represent his family before the Supreme Court and directed him to prepare a point-wise response to the JIT report.

Later, speaking at a press conference, Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb and PML-N MNA Daniyal Aziz highlighted some of what they called discrepancies in the JIT report and expressed the hope that the Supreme Court would reject it as “frivolous”.

The minister said no one could snatch the right of the Sharif family to challenge the JIT’s findings, adding that opposition leaders were trying to fool the nation by presenting a “selective analysis” of the report.

Ms Aurangzeb said the JIT members had used the terms like “prima facie”, “seems” and “possibly” etc, which clearly proved that it was a “biased report.”

“In legal terms, this is called naked bias,” she said.

The minister said that questions were being raised as to who had written the 254-page report. Moreover, all the documents attached in the report had been “generated” and not “procured” by the JIT.

MNA Daniyal Aziz later gave a Powerpoint presentation to reporters, highlighting a number of discrepancies in the report.

Mr Aziz said the JIT was taking credit for completing its task within the stipulated 60-day period, whereas it had submitted an “incomplete” report to the Supreme Court since the word “ongoing” had been written in front of Volume X, which had been declared as “secret” and the “most essential” part of the report.

The MNA said that Volume X was related to international correspondence and the documents obtained by the JIT came from foreign countries. He said the power to obtain information from foreign governments had been given to the JIT by the federal cabinet.

Mr Aziz asked that if Volume X was “secret”, how come documents from UAE authorities had been “leaked.” He also claimed that the document had not been verified and attested by the UAE Embassy, which was a must before using it as evidence in court.

He claimed that the JIT had submitted its report without waiting for a response to 80pc of the queries it had sent to various countries, including the UAE, the UK and Saudi Arabia.

“That 80pc is the most essential part of the report, and is empty. Those demanding the PM’s resignation should read the report first,” he said.

Mr Aziz then mentioned a page where JIT members had highlighted three possibilities: “What kind of investigation is this?” he asked, saying that even a newly-appointed assistant sub-inspector could do a better job.

The MNA also claimed that the JIT report had not addressed the core issue regarding the ownership of the London flats before 2006.

He also denied that the prime minister owned any offshore company, as claimed by the JIT report.

Responding to a question, Ms Aurangzeb refuted reports that there were divisions within the PML-N over the issue of the prime minister’s resignation and that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was in favour of the PM stepping down.

She claimed that the issue of the prime minister’s resignation had never come under discussion at any meeting since the release of the JIT report.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2017