Categorized | South Asian Politics

Pakistani PM remains under pressure over Panama leaks

Posted on 28 April 2016 by admin

 Dr. Hasan Askari

 Prime Nawaz Sharif’s address to the nation on April 22 did not defuse tension in Pakistan’s politics. Though he agreed to the opposition’s demand to write a letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court for establishing a Judicial Commission for investigation of the financial information leaked by the Panama Documents, the speech would not reduce tension between the federal government and the opposition parties, especially the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf.

 There are two reasons for the continuation of the confrontation between the federal government and the opposition.

 First, the terms and conditions for the proposed Judicial Commission are so open-ended that it would not be able to complete its task easily. The judicial Commission has been asked to investigate the information on off-shore companies and confidential financial activity of some rich people as well as examine who received loans from the banks in Pakistan and how these loans were written-off.

 The Panama Leaks task is very complex. If some new names became known when more Panama Papers become available, the task of the Commission will increase from the current figure of 200 people. The task of the Commission is complicated further by asking it to investigate the loans from Pakistan banks. This issue alone can take more than one year for investigation. The investigation of the Panama Leaks will increase the investigation time to two years or more. The combining of two tasks is unrealistic.

 Second, The Prime Minister was in an angry mood and he used several negative words to criticize the opposition, especially the PTI, for their political stand on the Panama Leaks. He blamed the opposition for destabilizing the country. He accused the opposition of adopting “fascist” attitude in politics and blamed the “Dharna” in 2014 by the PTI for undermining stability. This blame policy produced a negative reaction from the opposition within two hours of the Prime Minister’s speech.

 Nawaz Sharif also criticized the military without naming it. He asked the question why was he forced out of office by unconstitutional means in October 1999, put in jail and later forced out of the country. He argued that he spent a long painful time in exile outside of Pakistan.

 He maintained that he was not afraid of fake threats by the opposition and that he was there to stay on and pursue work for the development and betterment of people. He, however, declared that he would be willing to quit if he was found guilty of wrong doing by the Judicial Commission.

 Nawaz Sharif maintained that he was a victim of vicious propaganda by his political adversaries. He earned his wealth through a long struggle and used to pay taxes at a time when many people did not know the meanings of Tax.

 The tone of Nawaz Sharif’s speech and the sharp criticism of the opposition and the military is expected to increase political tensions in Pakistan. His anger can be explained with reference to the political pressures created by the developments since the first disclosure of the Panama Document Leaks. Imran Khan has been making a sharp criticism of Nawaz Sharif since then.

 The pressure from the Army has also increased as it stepped up its role in the Punjab to control terrorism. The Chottu Gang episode also increased the Army’s pressure. The Army was able to contain the activities of the Chottu Gang and arrest its leader after the Punjab Police failed to control him.

 The Army’s pressure also increased when the Army Chief announced the army’s support for controlling corruption as a part of its efforts to check terrorism. Two days later, the Army took punitive action against several officers for engaging in corrupt practices for making illegal money. The latter step built the pressure on the Prime Minister to take steps for ending political corruption and especially investigating the information that has been made available by the disclosure of the Panama papers. As the pressure from the Army and the opposition increased, he decided to accept the opposition demand for investigation of the Panama Leaks. However, the angry tone of Nawaz Sharif and the unnecessary expansion of the task of the proposed Commission has minimized the chances of political reconciliation.

 Nawaz Sharif and his close associates are convinced that the Army and some opposition parties, especially Imran Khan, are pursuing their own agendas to weaken the PMLN government. Therefore, he adopted a tough posture in the speech. This is not expected to help Nawaz Sharif. This is expected to increase conflict between Nawaz Sharif and the Army as well as between Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan. The only positive news for the Prime Minister is that all major opposition parties are not united in challenging him. Three political parties are not yet fully endorsing Imran Khan’s politics against Nawaz Sharif. These parties are PPP, MQM and ANP The JUIF is inclined towards the PMLN. It can increase the price for its continued support to the federal government. The Jamaat-i-Islami and the PMLQ are expected to support Imran Khan.

 There is a need of limiting the scope of the Commission to the Panama Document Leaks. The Prime Minister should address the contradictions in statements of his two sons about the family’s financial affairs. There is hardly any effort in this direction.

 This political system is moving towards greater confrontation. The increased distrust between the government and the opposition and a subtle PMLN propaganda against the Army are not expected to safeguard the political interests of Nawaz Sharif. The need of the hour is not defiance on the part of the Prime Minister but political reconciliation. However, Pakistani politics is not moving in that direction.


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