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LAHORE: Most of the Punjab cabinet members are not defending the Sharif family in the Panama Papers case, while the government says they are not doing so because they are “not updated” on it.

Of the 40 plus ministers, advisers and special assistants in the provincial cabinet, only a couple of them -- law minister Rana Sanaullah and special assistant to the chief minister Malik Ahmad Khan -- with a number of federal ministers and MNAs, are defending Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his children in the case.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who is being considered as an ‘all-important player’ of the Sharif family in case the premier and his children get an adverse court decision in the Panama Papers case, reportedly did not issue any directions to his cabinet members to defend his elder brother in this hour of need.

“Since an army of the PML-N legislators in Islamabad are defending the Sharif family in the Panama Papers case, Shahbaz Sharif has not yet felt the need for unleashing more of his troops on the opponents in this respect,” a PML-N legislator told Dawn on Wednesday requesting anonymity.

He said the chief minister seemed to be satisfied with the performance of a couple of members of his cabinet who he thought could well defend the Sharif family in the media.

The legislator added the chief minister had not directed the cabinet members to defend his elder brother in the Panama case.

“Perhaps, he (CM) does not think that his cabinet members (or most of them) have the capability to meet this challenge,” he said, adding since Shahbaz Sharif had been running the province for the last nine years like ‘one-man show’, he could not trust most of his cabinet in this case (Panama) too.

On the other hand, Shahbaz Sharif in his defence to his brother usually takes on Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan and other political opponents and avoids blaming ‘hidden hand’ unlike Nawaz Sharif’s aides. Similarly, his son Hamza Shahbaz is also not in the forefront in defending his “role model” uncle.

Punjab Information Minister Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman told Dawn that there had been no specific directions from the chief minister to the cabinet members on the Panama papers case. Replying to a question, he said: “The chief minister has neither stopped any cabinet member from speaking on this issue.”

“Rana (Sanaullah) sahib is a senior member of the cabinet, and he is quite updated on the Panama issue, therefore, he defends the Sharif family well. Most of the cabinet members are not updated on the issue.

This is a very sensitive issue and to speak on it one has to be fully updated on it,” the minister said.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2017