Islamabad: Pakistan’s beleaguered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today refused to step down even as the clamour for his resignation got louder after the Panama case probe panel recommended filing of a graft case against him and his family.
Addressing an emergency Cabinet meeting here, 67-year-old Sharif termed the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report a pack of “allegations and speculation”, Dawn reported.
The six-member JIT, probing Sharif family’s offshore assets and alleged corruption, in a 10-volume damning report submitted to the Supreme Court on July 10 recommended that a corruption case should be filed against Sharif and his sons -Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz – as well as daughter Maryam. At the first Cabinet meeting after the submission of the JIT report to the apex court, Sharif said that he will not resign as the prime minister on anyone’s call.
“The people of Pakistan have elected me and only they can remove me from this post,” Prime Minister Sharif said, responding to the opposition parties who have been demanding his resignation following the release of the report.
Sharif claimed that his family “earned nothing after entering politics, but lost a lot”. The language used in the JIT report displays malafide intentions, he said.
“The Prime Minister said that he will not resign on the demand of a group of conspirators,” Radio Pakistan reported.
“Those demanding my resignation on false and unwarranted claims should first look at themselves,” Sharif said.
According to official sources, Sharif consulted his cabinet colleagues about his future plan after demands by opposition to resign.
The Cabinet members reposed full confidence in the leadership of Prime Minister Sharif and endorsed his decision not to step down. They suggested that Sharif fight the legal battle to vindicate himself in the Panama Papers case. Sharif also discussed the strategy how to contest the JIT in the court which starts the hearing from Monday.
The decision to convene today’s meeting was taken during an “informal meeting” at the prime minister’s house.
All major opposition political parties have asked Sharif to step down and stay away from power until his name was cleared.
“Insha’Allah he won’t resign because not a single allegation of misuse of public money during five tenures in power has been proven against him,” Sharif’s daughter Maryam tweeted.
The high-profile graft case is about alleged money laundering by Sharif in 1990s when he twice served as the Prime Minister to purchase assets in London. The assets surfaced when Panama papers last year showed that they were managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif’s children.
The case filed by various petitioners — Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chief Imran Khan, Jamaat-i-Islami emir Sirajul Haq and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed — sought disqualification of Prime Minister Sharif over his alleged misstatement in his address to the nation on April 5, 2016 and his speech before the National Assembly on May 16, 2016.
The petitioners had claimed that the prime minister lied about the investments made by his children in offshore companies, which led to the acquisition of four apartments in London’s upscale Park Lane neighbourhood.
In April, a five-judge Supreme Court bench issued a landmark 540-page split judgement ordering setting up of the JIT comprising officials from different agencies including those from powerful spy agencies the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence.
Sharif is the only Pakistani politician who has the distinction of being the prime minister of the coup-prone country for a record three times.He had served as the Prime Minister from 1990 to 1993 and from 1997 to 1999. Both of Sharif’s first two stints had ended in the third year of his tenure.