Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will hold a brainstorming session today (Saturday) with his party’s senior leaders to determine how effective his party’s strategy has been in calming the political storm triggered by the Panama Papers leaks.
The ruling party’s leaders are also expected to examine ways to prevent the civil-military relationship from deteriorating.
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The prime minister’s senior aides, including Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, have been directed to attend the meeting, which will be held at the prime minister’s family residence at Raiwind in Lahore.
Sources said the prime minister is interested in going over the opposition’s tactics on the Panama Papers leaks, civil military relations and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) strategy to avert any emerging crisis.
The Panama Papers, a trove of documents leaked earlier this month, have created political turmoil in the country following the revelation that the prime ministers’ three children were among the dozens of powerful people – from across the globe – who have offshore companies in an international tax haven.
Sources said Chaudhry Nisar will apprise the PM on his recent foreign visit and his contacts with the international community. Nisar will also update the party leadership about his contacts with the military leadership over a number of issues, including the crisis over requisitioning paramilitary Rangers in Punjab.
Requisitioning the Rangers is seen as a major thorn in the relations between the civil government and the military establishment. The military has been demanding that Punjab government give special policing powers to the paramilitary force so that it may carry out an operation against militants and sectarian elements particularly in the southern part of the province.
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However, Prime Minister Nawaz is unwilling to accept the same and has reiterated many times that the Rangers and army can carry out an operation in Punjab, which is the ruling party’s political bastion, but the legal authority of that operation should remain with the provincial government.
Sources said Nisar will update the participants about his contacts with the military leadership and his series of meetings with the PNL-N lawmakers over the issue. They said a majority of the party’s lawmakers are not in favour of requisitioning the Rangers.
They said the party leadership will discuss this issue in detail and is likely to reiterate its resolve not to call up the Rangers. Sources said Nisar may propose and convince both civil and military leaders to have meetings on security issues either directly or through Cabinet Committee on National Security in the coming days.
The premier will also update members about his recent meeting with JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman. The PM has assigned Fazl the task of approaching PPP Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari over the Panama leaks.
Fazl on Thursday called on the PM and briefed him about his preliminary contacts with the PPP leadership. He had expressed hope that his further contacts would dissuade the PPP from joining the PTI-led camp for a movement against the PML-N.
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Sources said Finance Minister Dar, along with legal and taxation experts, will brief the participants about the expected output of the judicial commission announced by the premier to probe his children’s alleged offshore businesses as well as the commission’s terms of reference (ToRs).
The party leadership will also discuss possibility of accommodating the opposition’s ToRs. The opposition parties, particularly Imran Khan’s PTI, have rejected the government’s ToRs and have called a meeting on May 2.
Sources said the party will also review and discuss its policy to counter the opposition’s political campaign against the government.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2016.