ISLAMABAD: The PML-N top leadership held a marathon brainstorming session on Wednesday to deal with the possible implications of the Supreme Court verdict in the Panamagate case, which is due today.
Soon after a meeting of PML-N’s Sindh chapter, which was convened to discuss the party’s reorganisation in the province, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif went into a low-key huddle with his senior aides – including federal ministers, lawmakers, advisers, special assistants and personal staff members – to discuss the looming Supreme Court judgment and its possible implications for the Sharif family and the ruling party, The Express Tribune has learnt.
“Different possibilities were considered,” said a source privy to the meeting. One of the possible scenarios the meeting discussed was a direct impact on Premier Sharif, the source added.
“Some party members hold the opinion that the prime minister might not be directly affected by the apex court verdict – but if the judgment has consequences for his family, it would eventually have a negative impact on the premier, at personal level, and on the PML-N, at the party level,” he said.
To respond to the situation, the PML-N leadership is set to resort to populist measures like reducing power outages – at least for the time being – in order to garner public support and to defuse pressure on the party.
Another possible scenario is the formation of a commission to probe the Panamagate scandal. “In such a scenario, the court can either ask the premier to step down till the commission completes its inquiry. Or the court can allow Sharif to stay on while ordering the formation of a commission to probe into the scandal,” an insider said.
“Either way, it would be damaging for us – given that even if the premier is allowed to work and a commission is formed, pressure would mount on Sharif to step aside and the PTI would fully cash in on the situation.”
A senior PML-N leader said the party leadership was deeply concerned at the apex court’s verdict. “Even if the respondents get a clean chit from the apex court, the situation could be heading towards political confrontation — street agitation, protests, and all that.”
He admitted that the ongoing power outages have already fuelled anti-government sentiments. “The public sentiment is not favourable right now. In such a situation, if things go to the point of street agitation, it would be a nightmare for us.”
For party circles, the possibility of premier’s disqualification is the ‘least anticipated scenario. The party leadership has not considered a replacement for Sharif if he becomes the casualty of the court’s verdict, sources said.
Political analyst Kanwar Dilshad says either scenario would be a ‘win-win’ situation for the PTI. “If a commission is formed, the opposition, especially the PTI, will get a chance to play politics and keep targeting the government on the Panamagate for a few more months, in addition to pressing for Sharif’s resignation till the completion of the inquiry.
“If the court verdict doesn’t affect the Sharif family, things will go for street agitation and the PTI would try to mobilise public against the PML-N government. And if the premier is sent packing by the apex court, what else would the PTI want?”