LAHORE: An All Parties’ Conference of opposition parties in the Provincial Assembly on Wednesday called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down to allow an impartial inquiry into claims of financial malpractice alleged in Panama Papers leaks. Party leaders said a nationwide protest would be called if the prime minister did not resign.
The All Parties’ Conference was called by Leader of Opposition in the Provincial Assembly Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed. Representatives of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Jamat-i-Islami (JI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid attended the conference.
Later, addressing a press conference, Rasheed warned of strong agitation by the opposition if the government continued to ignore their demands.
“The prime minister should resign immediately and allow someone else from the House to run the affairs till the inquiry is complete,” he said. He said the Terms of References (TORs) of the commission for the investigation should be formulated after consultation with opposition parties.
“International experts should be associated with the inquiry,” he said. He said the parties in opposition had agreed to chalk out a joint strategy which would be finalised after a conference in Islamabad on May 2.
The opposition parties also demanded that a Provincial Assembly session be convened to debate the matter. “There are only 20 days left before the end of the parliamentary session. The government is showing no interest in convening a session on this issue. We want this to be brought to the House so that elected representatives can demand accountability.”
Delay in the wheat procurement drive and shortage of gunny bags were also taken up. Deaths in Layyah due to consumption of poisoned sweets were also discussed. Rasheed said the opposition blamed shortage of medical facilities for the deaths. He said details of investigations into Chotu gang be made public along with names of their facilitators.
Rasheed said the parties had also condemned the government for creating problems for transporters providing services to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) workers ahead of an event scheduled for May 1.
“Attempts to sabotage a peaceful protest will not be tolerated,” he said. An adjournment motion on this issue was submitted by the leader of opposition in the assembly secretariat on Wednesday. Rasheed dismissed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PMLN) stance that the PM’s name had mistakenly been included in Panama Papers.
“Regardless of the veracity of their claims, the prime minister’s children have been named in the leaks,” he said. “If the prime minister does not step down, he will be responsible for instability in the country.”
Rasheed mocked the PML-N’s strategy to hold political gatherings to counter the rallies by opposition parties.
“They are welcome to hold as many rallies as they like. Then we can see who people truly support,” he said. Rasheed said a final decision regarding a protest in Raiwind had not yet been made. “The will be decision will be made after consultations with other parties,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2016.