Calling the ‘Panama Papers’ revelations against the Sharif family a God-send, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan called upon the people of Pakistan on Sunday to ‘rise before it is too late’. He said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif must resign as he has lost the moral authority to stay in power.
“This is the time to rise. Everything will be doomed, if the people of Pakistan do not wage a struggle now,” Imran said in his so-called ‘address to the nation’ which was not aired by the state-run Pakistan Television. “Panama Leaks are, in fact, from Allah Almighty. The umpire has given his decision,” he said using the cricket jargon.
Imran’s televised address came a day after Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan offered him an FIA-led inquiry into allegations in the Panama Papers that three scions of the Sharif family secreted their money offshore to avoid taxes at home.
In his knee-jerk reaction to Nisar’s offer, the PTI chief demanded that the government form an independent commission, led by former Intelligence Bureau chief Dr
Shoaib Suddle, to investigate the charges.
But on Sunday, Imran called for a judicial inquiry by none other than the chief justice of Pakistan, Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali. He gave the government until April 24 to form a judicial commission or else brace for street agitation. “The commission should also hire some foreign firm besides experts to investigate the white collar crime,” he said.
Two days after the Panama leaks stirred up a worldwide political storm, Premier Nawaz Sharif had announced a commission, led by a retired Supreme Court judge, to investigate the charges against his family. However, Nisar revealed on Saturday that two former judges approached by the government have refused to head the commission.
The PTI chairman said that on April 24, his party would commemorate its 20th foundation day in Islamabad. “I will spell out my next strategy there,” Imran said as he dropped a broad hint at staging a sit-in in front of the Sharif family residence in Raiwind, Lahore.
“This time, the sit-in will last till our demands are met,” he said, in a reference to the PTI’s 126-day-long Dharna in Islamabad. Imran defended his decision to call off the 2014 Dharna after a terrorist attack at the Army Public School in Peshawar. “But this time I promise the nation I will not back down.”
On several counts, Imran addressed himself to the prime minister. “Mian Sahib, don’t even think that we will let this matter fizzle out. The evidence is already there but the prime minister is asking people to come forward with evidence,” he said.
He invited attention of national institutions like the Supreme Court, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to “think about fellow countrymen instead of saving their jobs”.
In doing so, he put a question mark on another institution, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), as he alleged that SBP’s incumbent deputy chairman, Syed Ahmed, was offered the position for his role in laundering the Sharif family’s money.
“The person who was involved in money laundering is now number two in the SBP,” Imran said. To substantiate his allegations, he referred to the much talked about affidavit of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar that ‘tells the tale about the Sharif family’s money laundering’.
Responding to allegations that he invested donations of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in an offshore company, Imran said a hospital which was providing cancer treatment to the poor was being targeted to hide corruption of the rulers.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2016.