LAHORE: Amid a deadlock over investigations into Panama Papers revelations according to terms of reference proposed by the united opposition, the opposition in the Provincial Assembly has announced a protest movement aimed at forcing the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government into calling midterm elections in 2017. This was announced by Leader of Opposition in the Provincial Assembly Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed after a meeting of opposition parties on Wednesday.
“Lahore would be the centre of the anti-corruption movement “the first phase of which would be in motion after July 20,” he said.
Participants of the meeting decided that protest demonstrations over the Panama Papers controversy and load shedding would be held daily during the next assembly session.
They were categorical in stating that they did not want to derail the democratic setup. They said they had every right to demand accountability of government leaders.
The meeting of opposition parties was held at Rasheed’s chamber. Dr Syed Waseem Akhtar of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Faiza Malik of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Sardar Vickas Hasan Mokal of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid and Deputy Opposition Leader Sibtain Khan attended the meeting.
The participants demanded that the prime minister present himself and his family for accountability. They said that such accountability must be as per the terms of reference decided by the joint opposition. “All those named in the Panama Papers must be held accountable without discrimination.”
They expressed a resolve against corruption and agreed to take up the possibility of a joint movement against corruption with their parties in order to allow their respective central leaders to make the final announcements in this regard.
A joint declaration issued later said that the government’s failure to comply would be met with protests at every forum. Even street agitation. Rasheed said if the government failed to ensure accountability the Opposition would ask the PML-N to pack their bags and allow mid-term elections early next year.
The declaration expresses reservations over the performance of the National Accountability Bureau and the Federal Investigation Agency to curb corruption.
Addressing a press conference later, Rasheed said the opposition did not want the armed forces to intervene and would not support such a step. “However, the government is creating an environment of uncertainty through its refusal to be held accountable.”
Responding to a query regarding banners calling on the army to take over, Rasheed welcomed the ISPR’s statement denying any link to the posters. He said the government had resources at its disposal to investigate the matter.
Dr Akhtar said the JI would be a part of the decision made at the Centre regarding the opposition’s movement over the Panama Papers issue. “If the government presents itself for accountability, it would stave off the massive movement” PPP’s Faiza Malik said. The government would be responsible for the aftermath of the movement, including an uncertain political situation in the country, she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2016.