WEB DESK: As promised by the PTI Chairman, Imran Khan, the party’s Friday’s rally near Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Lahore residence to press for his accountability in the Panama Papers scandal proved to be momentous both in terms of attendance and the ‘big announcement’ he was to make about his future line of action.
In his speech, Imran made his usual case against the PM, iterating mostly his earlier arguments – with the help of a video demonstration – that different members of the First Family have been making contradictory statements about the purchase of the controversial properties. And also that there is no doubt that they bought expensive properties abroad with money that is not accounted for in their tax returns and that the Panama Papers contained enough evidence for the relevant accountability institutions to hold the PM answerable on four different counts of wrongdoing.
Notably, unlike the ‘dharna’ two years ago, this time the PTI was not calling for Nawaz Sharif’s resignation. Making the ‘big’ announcement, Imran declared that from now on, there will be no more public meetings against the Prime Minister, instead the party would not allow his government to function after Muharram if he does not present himself for accountability. “Islamabad”, he said, “will be shut down”.
How this confrontation will end, is hard to foretell. What is obvious is that the issue is not going to go away. So far, the other major opposition party, the PPP, as well as the JI while voicing support for the PTI’s campaign and pursuing their own protest plans, have adopted a measured approach. Last week, the Senate approved a bill moved by the Leader of the Opposition, PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan, proposing fresh ToRs for a judicial commission probe into the Panama leaks, which was promptly rejected by the Minister for Law and Justice, Zahid Hamid, calling it “one-sided, specifically designed to the Panama Papers and riddled with politically-motivated clauses.”
It is not difficult to predict the fate of the bill when it comes to the National Assembly, where the PML-N has a comfortable majority. As things stand, the issue cannot be resolved within Parliament and the accountability institutions are unable or unwilling to fulfil their responsibility. The opposition has been left with little choice, according to some of them, but to up the pressure. Shutting down the capital, however, is an extreme step that could lead to consequences that no one interested in the stability of the democratic project would like to see.
So what needs to happen to save the situation while it can be saved? The NAB, FIA, FBR and the State Bank appear to have washed their hands of the case. The one hopeful sign is that the Supreme Court has accepted the petitions – earlier rejected as ‘frivolous’ by the court registrar – filed by the PTI and some others for hearing. PTI is not in a mood to wait endlessly. It would therefore be in the fitness of things for the court to hold the proceedings on a day-to-day basis and deliver its verdict, bringing an end to a dangerous confrontation with portents that are too grim to be speculated.
Source: Business Recorder