Opposition meets today to chart out future course
ISLAMABAD: Key opposition groups, which have apparently teamed up to press the government for an independent inquiry into the Panama leaks, are scheduled to meet today (Monday) to chart out a future strategy.
The government has already requested the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) to form a judicial commission to investigate revelations in the Panama Papers that the Sharif family has offshore holdings. The move could not impress the opposition which is calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
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The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has been instrumental in arranging the meeting of opposition parties. Its leaders even knocked at the doors of Lal Haveli, the residence of Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, an old rival and avowed critic of the PPP.
Apart from the PPP, leaders from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid and AML have confirmed their participation in the meeting to be held at the residence of Aitzaz Ahsan, leader of the opposition in the Senate.
The meeting is particularly significant as CJP Anwar Zaheer Jamali has returned from a foreign trip and is set to consider the government request for a judicial commission.
The two key opposition groups, the PPP and PTI, have rejected the terms of reference (ToRs) of the proposed commission which broadens the scope of accountability beyond the Panama Papers. Other opposition parties have also done their homework on the ToRs. And there is consensus among them that accountability should start from the prime minister and his family.
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Initially, Monday’s meeting was supposed to come up with parallel ToRs. “But now it will also discuss another question: whether or not the prime minister should be asked to resign,” an insider told The Express Tribune.
The PTI, which has been leading the chorus of criticism against the Sharif family, was the first opposition party to demand the prime minister’s resignation. But the demand received the much needed impetus on Sunday after PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also called upon Nawaz Sharif to step down.
“The meeting will definitely discuss the question of demanding resignation from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif,” a senior PPP leader, who will also be attending the meeting, told The Express Tribune. “Though all opposition parties have similar opinion on the Panama Papers, we cannot say for sure if they will endorse the demand for the prime minister’s resignation.”
Analysts believe the demand would be considered serious if it comes from PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, who wields the real power in his party.
The PML-Q and Sheikh Rashid’s AML will definitely support the demand, while the MQM and the JI are likely to stay neutral. “We will not side either with the government or the opposition,” a senior MQM leader told The Express Tribune.
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He said the MQM has pinned hopes on the judicial inquiry. “The opposition parties are merely playing politics on the issue. The leaks have revealed the names of people belonging to all political parties,” he said when asked about the ToRs.
He said the opposition would frame parallel ToRs keeping in view names of their own people. “Though the MQM does not subscribe to the views of most opposition parties, its representative will attend the meeting,” he added.