Some people hiding behind “constitutional institutions” in Pakistan are hatching a “systematic conspiracy” to remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from mainstream politics using the high-profile Panama Papers case, the ruling PML-N party alleged today. This is the second time in less than a week that Sharif’s party has accused Pakistan’s powerful establishment of conspiring to oust the civilian government amid strains in ties with the the powerful military and the judiciary. On June 5, Sharif said that “some people” were hatching conspiracies against his government. His State Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb then openly pointed finger at the establishment, saying it was behind the ongoing campaign to “humiliate” the Sharif family by leaking images of Sharif’s son on social media showing him facing the JIT at the Federal Judicial Academy, triggering panic in the government circles.
Abid Sher Ali, a relative of Sharif and minister of state for water and power, said today that some people were hatching a plot to remove the prime minister from the political system. “We will not accept any decision to minus Nawaz Sharif from the political system,” Ali said, referring to the Panama Papers scandal in which an investigation is underway against Sharif and his children for their alleged offshore holdings. “Some people are hiding behind constitutional institutions (like Supreme Court) and working on minus-Nawaz formula. We will not let this happen as millions of people will be on roads if this happens,” Ali said. A Joint Investigation Team formed by the Supreme Court on April 20 questioned Sharif’s sons – Hussain and Hasan – last month over the family’s alleged improper business dealings. Ali said the Sharif family has been facing accountability for the past 40 years. “A systematic conspiracy is being hatched to have a face off between the government and judiciary to send Sharif packing,” he said.
Several other members of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have previously flagged concerns about such conspiracy theories. Parliamentarians Daniyal Aziz, Talal Chaudhry and Miaza Hamid have said the ruling party does not accept the JIT probe into the Panama Papers case and it will soon hit the streets against the controversial investigation. The SC has directed the JIT to complete its probe by early July, based on which the apex court would decide the fate of Nawaz Sharif anbd his children in the case. The Panama Papers case is about alleged money laundering by Sharif in the 1990s when he twice served as Pakistan’s prime minister to purchase assets in London.
Last month, Pakistan’s powerful Army withdrew a controversial tweet that had rattled the Sharif government over a media leak about a rift brewing between the two power centres over combating militancy in the country. Many believed the withdrawal of the tweet was a defeat for the Army in the great power struggle with the civilian government. The Army enjoys considerable influence over policy decisions in Pakistan. The rift was a grim reminder of 1999 when then army chief Pervez Musharraf had ousted the government of Sharif. Pakistan’s powerful army has ruled the country for much of its life since it gained independence 70 years ago.