Panama Papers leaks: Defiant Pak PM Nawaz Sharif refuses to quit
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Panama Papers leaks: Defiant Pak PM Nawaz Sharif refuses to quit

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has defiantly refused to step down in the face of demands for his resignation from the opposition over a Joint Investigation Team’s findings in the Panama Papers scandal.

world Updated: Jul 13, 2017 23:58 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Panama Papers leaks,Joint Investigation Team,Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
File photo of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his plane on February 3, 2017. (Reuters)

A defiant Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday rejected calls from Pakistan’s opposition to step down after a probe panel recommended the opening of an anti-corruption case against him, saying only the people had the mandate to remove him.

Sharif announced his decision while chairing an emergency meeting of his cabinet, which endorsed the move. “Should I resign on the demand of anti-democracy forces? Why should I resign, on what basis?” he was quoted as saying by state-run APP news agency.

The opposition has been demanding Sharif’s resignation since a Joint Investigation Team, appointed by the apex court to probe accusations of money laundering and concealing of wealth by the Sharif family, submitted its report on July 10. Media reports said the JIT concluded that the family’s assets exceeded its sources of income.

But Sharif contended that the “controversial” JIT had submitted a report “based on accusations and conjecture” that reflected “animosity and malice”. The report had not given “even a hint of any corruption or financial misappropriation”, he said.

Members of the cabinet suggested Sharif should fight a legal battle to vindicate himself in the case related to the Panama Papers leaks. The opposition began targeting Sharif as the documents revealed that the premier’s three children - including his heir apparent, daughter Maryam Nawaz - owned offshore assets worth millions of dollars.

Pointing to the opposition parties who have been demanding his resignation, Sharif said his PML-N party had bagged more votes than the opposition parties combined. “The people of Pakistan have elected me and only they can remove me from this post,” he said.

While briefing the cabinet, Sharif said all the allegations made by the JIT in its report were in reference to his family’s business dealings. He added that his family “earned nothing after entering politics, but lost a lot”.

Projects worth billions of rupees were being executed in Pakistan and no evidence of corruption had been found in any of them, he said. He challenged opponents to produce proof of “corruption of a single paisa” since 1985 against his family.

He said the language used in the JIT’s report reeked of “bias and mala fide intentions”, adding his family had cooperated with the panel during its probe to uphold the law and Constitution.

The JIT, in its report, highlighted that Sharif was “non-committal” about two letters furnished to the Supreme Court by the former Qatari prime minister about financial dealing. The JIT also described Sharif’s son-in-law, Capt (retired) Muhammad Safdar, as “untruthful, dishonest, deceitful and shifty on many accounts displaying wanting conduct”.

Soon after the cabinet meeting, the main opposition Pakistan People’s Party announced it would support government institutions – a indication of support for the JIT. This was seen as a major blow for the Sharif government.

Opposition leader Khurshid Shah said Sharif had no moral ground to remain as the premier.

On Wednesday, army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa had announced that his force would make the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor a success “come what may”. Observers saw this statement going against Sharif, as the prime minister had once suggested that his exit would mean the end of the CPEC.

First Published: Jul 13, 2017 19:14 IST