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Panama papers leaks: Nawaz Sharif is fast running out of options

Opposition parties have called for the Pakistan Prime Minister’s resignation, while the army high command has indicated it was with the institutions and the people of Pakistan.

world Updated: Jul 16, 2017 07:25 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Nawaz Sharif,PML-N party,Joint Investigation Team
Chances of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif being disqualified by the Supreme Court have become very likely.(Reuters file photo)

With Pakistan’s opposition parties and the military apparently on the same page, Nawaz Sharif will face one the most serious challenges of his career when the Supreme Court takes up a probe panel’s report on corruption allegations against the Pakistani premier on Monday.

Over the weekend, Sharif told the faithful in his PML-N party that he would “fight till the last breath”, but the chances of him being disqualified by the Supreme Court have become very likely since the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) submitted its report on offshore assets owned by the premier’s family.

Opposition parties have been demanding that Sharif should step down ever since it emerged that the JIT’s report had said the Sharif family had been living beyond its means.

The opposition parties have filed a formal request with the Speaker for a special session of Parliament to be convened to debate the issue of Sharif’s resignation. The move has put pressure on the PML-N, which has seen most of its political allies distancing themselves since the JIT submitted its report.

Pakistani lawyers shout slogans against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a protest in Lahore. (AFP)

The army high command has again indicated it was with the institutions and the people of Pakistan. These statements from the military, at a time of political turmoil, suggest that Sharif is fast running out of options on how to proceed with his case in the Supreme Court.

There are also apparent divisions in the ranks of the PML-N, with interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan reportedly telling a party meeting that “only a miracle can save Nawaz Sharif”.

For its part, the PML-N has still not come up with a strategy for Monday, when the Panamagate case will be taken up by a three-judge bench. Media reports suggested that Sharif’s legal team is yet to finalise its strategy regarding the filing of objections to the JIT’s report.

The legal team met after the PML-N’s parliamentary party meeting on Friday and Saturday but could not decide whether it should file the objections. The meetings were reportedly not pleasant, with participants divided over the legal strategy to be adopted in the Supreme Court.

The media reported that PML-N counsel Khawaja Haris, who is leading the legal team, had prepared a draft of objections to the JIT report but one group of legal minds said the Sharif family should not file its written objections and should instead seek more time from the bench on Monday.

A Pakistani journalist poses with a copy of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report in Islamabad. (AFP)

It is still not clear what strategy Sharif will adopt but there are chances that the prime minister could ask for more time to satisfy the apex court. The idea is to buy as much time, say insiders, before elections are called in 2018.

However, the more time that the PML-N wants, the less opposition parties want to give it, as this will affect their chances in the coming elections. This tug of war will be decided one way or another in the coming week, say political analysts.

First Published: Jul 16, 2017 07:25 IST