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PTI to increase allies to put more pressure for Panama leaks

24 April, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the main petitioner in the Panama Papers case, announced on Sunday that it would contact representative bodies of lawyers, doctors, traders, teachers, students, labourers, farmers and other professionals to increase pressure on the prime minister to quit in the light of the Panama Papers judgement.

In addition, the party said it would file a reference against National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).

In a statement, PTI information secretary Naeemul Haq said the party leaders would soon contact office-bearers of all bar councils and associations and enhance the scope of the party’s anti-government movement to convert it into a countrywide agitation.

PTI chairman Imran Khan has already announced plans to hold a public meeting in Islamabad on April 28, in a bid to mobilise the masses and increase pressure on the prime minister to resign.

Talking to reporters, PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry welcomed the statements made by office-bearers of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) that the prime minister had no moral authority to stay in office after the verdict.

The SCBA office-bearers have endorsed the opposition’s viewpoint that PM Sharif should step down, at least until the investigations against him and his family members are completed.

But the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is standing its ground and has termed the demand “unconstitutional, unjustified and politically-motivated”, vowing to resist any move to put pressure on the prime minister to quit.

Fawad Chaudhry, however, insisted that the demand was “logical and legal” and said lawyers had always played a key role in upholding the supremacy of the Constitution and rule of law in the country since its creation.

In a related development, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) emir Sirajul Haq held a meeting with PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain on Sunday where it was decided that a team of lawyers from both parties would monitor the proceedings of the joint investigation team (JIT).

Talking to reporters after the meeting, the JI chief said they would appeal to the chief justice of Pakistan to open the proceedings of the JIT so that the public could witness the transparency of the process.

He reiterated his party’s demand that the prime minister resign and face the JIT, adding that he could assume office again if he was cleared by the JIT.

Chaudhry Shujaat predicted that PM Sharif would tender his resignation soon after the formation of the JIT.

The JI has already convened a meeting of its Majlis-i-Shoora at the party’s headquarters in Mansoora on Monday (today) to chalk out a future course of action.
Reference against NAB chief

The decision to file a reference against Qamar Zaman Chaudhry comes against the backdrop of the Supreme Court bench’s observations about his role.

“We will file the reference against the NAB chairman on Monday,” Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn. “All five judges on the bench that heard the Panama Papers case gave observations against the NAB chief, saying that he had failed to perform his duties and took no step to probe the scandal.”

He said his party had hoped that the NAB chairman would resign in the wake of the verdict, but that did not happen. “[The NAB chief] has turned out to be even more shameless than Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in ignoring the verdict of the honourable judges of the Supreme Court,” the PTI spokesman added.

Since the post of NAB chairman is a constitutional position, a reference has to be filed before the SJC and it is up to the council whether to remove him or not.

Since the SJC consists of Supreme Court judges, the PTI’s optimism regarding the possibilities of the NAB chairman’s ouster are not completely unfounded.

Section 6 of the NAB Ordinance states: “A chairman NAB... shall not be removed except on the grounds of removal of judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan.”

When asked what evidence the PTI would present before the SJC, Fawad Chaudhry said: “We do not need to provide evidence; the observations of the five judges of the Supreme Court are sufficient grounds for his removal.”

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