Embattled Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today met his close aides to chalk out a strategy to deal with the legal and political implications of the damning report by a probe panel on the Panamagate scandal that recommended filing of a corruption case against him. The six-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that probed the Sharif family’s business dealings in its 10-volume report submitted to the apex court recommended that a corruption case should be filed against Sharif and his sons Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz, as well as daughter Maryam Nawaz, under the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ordinance 1999. The report found Sharif and his children to be “living beyond the known means of income”.The report, however, was slammed by the Sharif government as “trash” with Sharif’s close aide and minister for development Ahsan Iqbal in press conference with other ministers, saying they will challenge the report in the Supreme Court and will “completely expose and unveil its contradictions and falsifications”. Sharif today consulted senior party leaders and loyalists to formulate a policy to deal with the legal and political consequences of high-level inquiry report against him.
Sharif called his younger brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif from Lahore who was part of a meeting attended by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, Minister of Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal and Minister of Petroleum Khaqan Abbasi and members of his legal team. According to sources, today’s meeting is more focused on how to defend the prime minister and his family in the Supreme Court which will hear the case on July 17 and has already asked the parties to respond in the light of the JIT report. “The meeting has also expressed complete confidence in the leadership of the prime minister,” sources said. Sharif faces formidable legal and political challenges after the report. His fate is dependent on the verdict of the Supreme Court which will hear the argument and decide a future course of action. It is likely that it may ask the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to launch the corruption case against Sharif and his children. But it may also reject the report after hearing the objections by the Sharif legal team.
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But even before it, opposition parties have joined hands and are asking for his removal. “Sharif has no reason to stay in power. He should resign immediately,” Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf senior leader, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, said. Pakistan Peoples Party leader Syed Khurshid Shah said the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) should start working on in-house change by replacing Sharif. Sharif’s nemesis Imran Khan told media that Sharif should resign. “There is no need of further trial or proceedings. He should go away and should be barred from leaving the country along with other family members,” Khan said yesterday.