Opposition parties on Friday ramped up the pressure against the ruling PML-N and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, demanding the premier’s resignation with one voice and protesting yesterday’s Supreme Court verdict on Panamagate in Parliament.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), PPP and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) each held press conferences following a meeting of opposition parties in Islamabad.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan himself snubbed the huddle, heading over instead to the National Assembly (NA) where he announced his party’s intent to hold a rally in the capital next week demanding the PM’s resignation for the duration of the probe into the Sharif family’s business dealings abroad.
Following the spate of critical opposition speeches, the PML-N appeared to be on the back foot as party leader Daniyal Aziz lashed out at opposition parties, saying that Maryam Nawaz’s name had been cleared by the court in the Panamagate case.
Aziz also set his sights on Imran Khan, asking the PTI chief to issue a public denial that he hid his assets and engaged in tax evasion.
Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb called for caution in the aftermath of the verdict, saying agitation must be halted “otherwise incidents like Mardan and Sialkot will continue to happen”.
Shah calls for postponing parliamentary sessions
A meeting of opposition parties chaired by PPP’s Khursheed Shah and Aitzaz Ahsan discussed the ramifications of the SC verdict on Panamagate earlier today.
The opposition collectively decided to demand the PM’s resignation and protest the matter in both the NA and Senate.
Opposition leader Khursheed Shah, while addressing the joint meeting, said: “Besides the government, every other party has understood the Panama case verdict.”
“Today, the sessions of Parliament and Senate will be postponed indefinitely,” Shah said, adding that opposition parties must vehemently protest in both the upper and lower houses of parliament.
‘Soft hand on Sharifs’: PPP rejects JIT
PPP lawmakers Aitzaz Ahsan and Khursheed Shah addressing a press conference following the meeting of opposition parties rejected the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to investigate the PM’s family, claiming that the Sharifs have links with the Inter-Services Intelligence, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, and the State Bank of Pakistan.
“How can an employee fairly investigate his employer?” Shah asked.
“We always asked the PM to refrain from resigning [in the past] for the sake of democracy. We always stood by Nawaz Sharif in the name of democracy,” he said.
Senator Aitzaz Ahsan said it was a custom of the SC to “keep a soft hand on the Sharifs”, but noted that the majority judges had rejected a letter from a Qatari royal submitted as evidence by the PM’s counsel.
He said the PPP rejects the formation of a JIT which would include people who favoured the ruling party.
The PPP also rejected the SC decision to clear Maryam Nawaz before the formation of the JIT.
In response to a question, he said the PPP would form a new strategy to force the prime minister to step down.
‘You think you passed the exam?’
Awami Muslim League (AML) President Sheikh Rasheed called for all parties to create “a grand alliance” against the government.
“You failed in two subjects and failed to clear the other three, and you still think you passed the exam,” Rasheed exclaimed.
“It doesn’t make sense that you [the PML-N] are distributing sweets even after you’ve failed,” he said.
JI calls for PM’s resignation ‘on moral grounds’
Jamaat-i-Islami Emir Sirajul Haq called for the resignation of PM Nawaz Sharif “on moral grounds”.
The JI chief framed the party’s move against the sitting prime minister as part of its ongoing campaign against corruption.
“Nawaz’s respect lies in resigning and conducting a free investigation into the case,” he maintained.
“The SC verdict is not the destination, but a step forward towards success.”
‘Go Nawaz, go’: lawmakers protest in parliament
Opposition lawmakers in the upper and lower house on Friday protested the Panamagate verdict announced by the Supreme Court a day earlier, with chants of ‘Go Nawaz, go’ echoing in parliament.
National Assembly Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi struggled to maintain order in the house as PML-N’s Sheikh Aftab’s speech during question hour was disrupted by MNAs registering their protest before the speaker’s dais and staging a walkout.
Lawmakers tore up the agenda and shouted for the PM to step down during an investigation into his finances.
By Fahad Chaudhry