Cabinet slams ‘smear campaign’ against PM

ICIJ reportedly acknowledged that inclusion of Nawaz’s name in Panama Papers was a ‘journalistic mistake’

Our Correspondent April 28, 2016
ICIJ reportedly acknowledged that inclusion of Nawaz’s name in Panama Papers was a ‘journalistic mistake’. PHOTO: REUTERS


The federal cabinet condemned on Wednesday ‘baseless allegations’ levelled against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and pointed out that the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) had reportedly acknowledged that the inclusion of the PM’s name in Panama Papers was a ‘journalistic mistake’.

The cabinet, which met after a seven-month gap, also expressed its resolve to aggressively defend Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at all forums to deflect the opposition’s criticism.

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Terming political rivals opportunistic, the prime minister said that the opposition wanted to distract the government from its development agenda. “All this is being done keeping in mind 2018 elections,” he was quoted as saying by a cabinet member.

The meeting also approved a strategy paper for the next budget.

Cabinet members also discussed the government’s strategy to deal with criticism of opposition parties unleashed after the disclosures in Panama Papers included names of offshore companies held by the PM’s family members.

Law Minister Zahid Hamid briefed the cabinet on legal issues regarding Panama Leaks, besides informing it about the government’s strategy to defend its case.

Some ministers, including Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch and Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, urged the government to adopt an aggressive approach for defending its status.

A recent clarification issued by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) provided the government an excellent opportunity to go on offensive.

The ICIJ, the ministers agreed, had clarified that the Prime Minster had nothing to do with offshore companies and the PM’s name was being maligned in a false propaganda campaign.

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Condemning what they termed were baseless allegations against the Prime Minister, cabinet members agreed that International Consortium for Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) had recently acknowledged that the inclusion of the PM’s name was a ‘journalistic mistake’.

The meeting demanded of the Consortium to determine the people responsible for the mistake and swiftly take action against them, an official handout said.

A participant of the meeting told The Express Tribune that the Prime Minister believed that opposition parties were being used to create the current political hype in a bid to defame the PML-N through a smear campaign to discredit the ruling party before the 2018 elections.

“We are committed to resolve power and gas issues by 2018. Ninety-five percent of projects falling under CPEC will be completed by the end of our tenure. Some opponents cannot digest this,” Nawaz was quoted as telling cabinet members.

Meanwhile, an official handout issued after the meeting stated that the federal cabinet reposed ‘full confidence’ in the Prime Minister and appreciated his decision to offer himself and his family for accountability before the Supreme Court.

The federal Cabinet also expressed its resolve that Pakistan Muslim League-N and the people would not allow “a few regressive opportunist elements to sabotage the stride of Pakistan towards development and prosperity”.

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The Prime Minister told the cabinet members that the current trend of GDP growth would continue to increase employment opportunities for youth. He noted that over the next few years, CPEC projects would benefit the whole region.

He said that the Chinese Council had already approved $4.5 billion for building Sukkur-Multan and Havelian-Thakot motorways. Under CPEC, $34 billion were being invested in energy projects and the amount was not part of a loan, he added. He said that the government will successfully overcome the gas shortage within its current tenure.

The PM emphasised on the need to address issues confronting agriculture and manufacturing sectors to boost growth and economy.

The Prime Minister appreciated the Finance Minister’s performance and his team for achieving the goal of economic stability and carrying forward the development agenda.

Prime Minister also shared his schedule for reaching out to the masses.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2016.