LAHORE: Opposition parties are weighing the options, including taking the matter to the streets, to deal with the deadlock over terms of reference for the constitution of a commission to probe Panama Papers revelations.
While some opposition politicians are cautious, others say that an anti-government agitation may be launched in the province after Ramazan.
On Friday, yet another meeting of the 12-member parliamentary committee to finalise the ToRs ended in Islamabad without reaching an agreement.
Several Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leaders have already warning the government of the party’s intention to take to the streets over the issue.
In their recent statements to the media, former governor Chaudhry Sarwar and Leader of the Opposition in the provincial Assembly Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed have warned the government against delay. “We reserve the right to protest … further delay in finalisation of the TORs will lead to a state of uncertainty and agitation,” Sarwar had said earlier in the week. Sarwar had said that the PTI would proceed in the matter in consultation with other opposition parties.
In a bid to muster support of parties not represented in the parliament, he had announced joining the Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s June 17 rally on The Mall. The rally has been called to mark the second anniversary of the killing of at least 14 people during clashes between PAT workers and the police at a rally in Model Town.
Speaking to The Express Tribune on Friday, former PTI Punjab president Ejaz Chaudhry said that if needed the party would stage protest demonstrations to keep alive the issue of Panama Papers. He said that during Ramazan it would hold meetings with the government and keep reaching out to other Opposition parties. He said the party wanted all opposition parties to act together over the issue.
Chaudhry said he was convinced that if the government could have its way it would keep delaying the ToRs.
He said the party would start its agitation after Ramazan. However, he said details of the campaign plan were still under deliberation. He said the strategy for the campaign would be different from the one adopted for the 2014 campaign against alleged rigging in 2013 general elections. Regardless of the strategy employed, the campaign would run across the province. “Punjab is the natural choice for such campaigns. The decisive political battles have always been in Lahore,” he said.
Meanwhile, PPP’s information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira reiterated that all decisions regarding the Panama Papers controversy would be taken in consultation with the United Opposition. “Our priority is to resolve the issue,” he said. Consensus on the ToRs is a requirement for the establishment of the inquiry commission, he said.
Kaira refrained from saying whether the party was considering street agitation but said that all options were being considered. “If I comment on a particular option at this stage, it would appear that a decision has been taken,” he said.
Kaira said when the party needed to take such a decision, it would do so in consultation with the United Opposition. On the importance of the campaign in the Punjab, he said it was a large province with an important role in national politics. Punjab’s role in national affairs cannot be denied, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2016.