LAHORE: The Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) on Saturday joined the opposition in demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation, threatening him with a countrywide movement “larger than the one in 2007 for the restoration of the judiciary” if he did not step down within seven days.
Speaking at a news conference in Lahore, senior leaders of the LHCBA said Prime Minister Nawaz did not have the moral right to stay in office after the Supreme Court verdict in the Panamagate case, which concluded that he and his family had failed to justify how they had accumulated their offshore assets.
In the split ruling announced on Thursday, three of the five judges who heard the case ordered a Joint Investigation Team probe into the accusations against the premier and his sons. The two senior-most judges on the bench, in their dissenting notes, ruled in favour of disqualifying Prime Minister Nawaz for failing to meet the constitutional requirement for honesty.
“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is morally obligated to resign after the Supreme Court verdict,” LHCBA President Chaudhry Zulfiqar told reporters at the news conference. “If he doesn’t step down voluntarily within seven days, we will launch a movement larger than the one that had led to Iftikhar Chaudhry’s reinstatement as the chief justice,” he warned.
“We lawyers have always struggled for the supremacy of law,” Zulfiqar said. “This time we are ready to lay down our lives to protect the country.”
The LHCBA president argued that an impartial probe into allegations against Prime Minister Nawaz was not possible as long as he remained in the office. “Officials in the JIT will not be able to hold a proper inquiry as they are still subordinate to the prime minister,” he said.
LHCBA Vice President Rashid Lodhi pointed out that the questions the top court has raised about the absence of a money trail for the Sharif family’s offshore wealth could not be ignored. “Prime Minister Nawaz has no moral grounds for staying in power after the Supreme Court rejected his stance,” he said.
LHCBA Secretary Amir Saeed Rawn went as far as saying that since two judges clearly declared Prime Minister Nawaz neither ‘Sadiq’ nor ‘Ameen’, the Panamagate verdict has actually framed charges against the premier. He strongly condemned the banners threatening the judiciary which were put up a day before the verdict was announced.
The LHCBA members also announced they would summon a convention of lawyers to finalise a strategy following the verdict. The LHCBA is the first among the lawyers’ associations to demand the prime minister’s resignation.