Gen Raheel urges PM to resolve Panama leaks issue
ISLAMABAD: Army chief General Raheel Sharif is said to have urged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resolve a ballooning controversy sparked by revelations in the Panama Papers that three Sharif family members were among dozens of world politicians who have secret offshore holdings.
Gen Raheel’s advice came amid an unabated war of words between the government and the opposition on the scope of a judicial inquiry the prime minister has ordered into the Panama leaks.
PM Nawaz to address parliament after opposition boycott over Panama leaks
Premier Nawaz Sharif chaired a meeting on law and order on Tuesday, his office said in a brief statement. “Issues pertaining to national and internal security were discussed. The meeting [also] reviewed the progress of Operation Zarb-e-Azb and return of IDPs [internally displaced persons],” it added.
However, sources privy to the closed-door meeting confirmed the army chief told the prime minister that the Panama leaks scandal was affecting national security and creating distraction from more pressing issues faced by the country. Therefore, he advised the premier to resolve the issue at the earliest, sources added.
Opposition parties, led by the PPP and the PTI, have apparently teamed up to press Premier Nawaz to come clean on the charges that his three children own offshore companies. The opposition has also announced boycott of parliament unless the prime minister shows up in the house and clarifies his position.
It was the first meeting between Premier Nawaz and Gen Raheel since the Panama Papers whipped up political upheaval in Pakistan like elsewhere in the world. And some sources said the meeting was arranged to quash an impression that the civil and military leadership was not on good terms.
PM Nawaz rebuffs opposition’s clamour over Panama leaks
Though the prime minister had convened a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on National Security on April 6, immediately after the Panama Papers took the world by storm, it was no more than a photo-op.
The civil-military relations had strained after the army chief called for an across-the-board accountability amid a public outcry over the Panama leaks scandal. Brushing aside the opposition’s relentless protests as propaganda, the prime minister mounted a public campaign, addressing rallies in different parts of the country.
Sources said Tuesday’s meeting was facilitated by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan with the help of some senior military officials. “It was an effort to normalise relations between the civil and military leadership,” one source commented. However, other sources believe the Nawaz administration will have to address several contentious problems, including security issues, for proper normalisation.
A few days back Nisar, Shahbaz and Raja Zafarul Haq had urged the prime minister to smoothen ties with the military instead of following in the footsteps of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his dealing with the military. They advised him to deliver on his promises before taking up such contentious issues.
Attendees at Tuesday’s meeting included Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Shahbaz Sharif, ISI chief Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar and senior bureaucrats.
Army chief dismisses 11 military officers over corruption charges
According to sources, Dar told the military leadership that their demand for a 100-billion-rupee increase in the next budget has been approved by the prime minister. The military needs Rs78 billion for Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
Sources said the ISI chief apprised the meeting of the fragile relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Lt Gen Rizwan praised the recovery of Ali Haider Gilani by US and Afghan forces but said Kabul would also expect something in return. The civil and military leadership agreed to re-engage the Afghan leadership to prevent the relations from deteriorating further.