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Panama Papers leak pits PM Nawaz Sharif against both Pakistan Army and Imran Khan

Raj Singh 25 Apr 2016, 18:46:17 PM IST
Raj Singh

New Delhi: Panama papers leak would not have come at worse time for Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif.

At a time when Nawaz Sharif was facing barrage of accusations for turning a blind eye to the acts of corruption by his near and dear ones who are part of Pakistani political system, Panama papers leak came as a major jolt which further tarnished his image.

What created political storm in Pakistan was the revelation that the three children of Pakistan Prime Minister namely Hussain Nawaz, Hasan Nawaz and Mariam Safdar were part of at least four offshore companies in British Virgin Islands.

It’s not that Nawaz Sharif is the only politician to have figured in these leaked documents. At least 40 politicians from across the world have been named in the leaks from Panamian law firm Mossack Fonseca (MF).

Interestingly, Nawaz Sharif is not the only Pakistani to have been named in these leaks.  There are around 200 Pakistanis, from noted lawyers to successful businessmen, whose name figure in the list and what it means is that the charges levelled against Nawaz Sharif’s children are not something that can be termed as unheard of in Pakistani society.

And that’s why Nawaz Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz had no hesitation in confessing that they indeed owned the offshore companies that have been mentioned in the leaked papers. He went on to add that it is a legal way to avoid unnecessary tax via offshore companies.

What actually went against Nawaz Sharif was that the Panama disclosures gave the Army a handle to settle scores with him. The Army was already getting restive with Nawaz Sharif on many issues including his peace talks initiatives with India.

Everybody knows that Pakistani Army Chief Raheel Sharif is not very enthusiastic over the civilian government extending any olive branch to India and he is seen as the main roadblock as far the success of Indo-Pak peace talks is concerned.

If Pakistani observers are to be believed Gen Raheel Sharif is also getting ambitious after his popularity skyrocketed in view of the considerable success of Operation Zarb-e-Azb targeted at various militant groups in Pakistan.  Pakistan watchers have also expressed fears of the Army once again taking over the reins of power in the Islamic Republic.  

When Gen Raheel Sharif sacked 6 senior Army officers on charges of corruption, it was seen as message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Those who follow Pakistani Army closely pointed out that it was Raheel Sharif’s way of telling Nawaz Sharif that it’s time for him to pack up. Gen Sharif did not mince words in adding that fight against terror cannot succeed as long as corruption continued.

The sacking of senior Army officers and the stern message of Raheel Sharif rankled Nawaz Sharif so much that he went on to national television and said that he does not fear anybody other than Allah. He made it very clear that vested interests with political aims were targeting him and his family.

A visibly nervous Nawaz Sharif also announced that he would write to Pakistani Chief Justice to form a commission to probe the Panama leaks. However, he sounded brave and wondered whether his opponents would apologise if he is proved innocent.

Panama leaks, however,  have given Imran Khan, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader, a god-send opportunity to target Nawaz Sharif. Without wasting any time, Imran Khan has asked Nawaz Sharif to resign and has threatened to launch a nationwide agitation if he fails to do so. In fact, he would be holding a rally in Sindh tomorrow to be followed by another one in Lahore.

Obviously, Imran Khan wants to repeat the story of 2014 agitations when he along with Muslim cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri had marched towards Islamabad protesting against the alleged rigging in 2013 general elections. The protest took a violent turn and Armed forces remained a mute spectator fuelling speculation of the Army tacitly supporting the protests.  An embarrassed Nawaz Sharif had to appeal to Army for mediation and Gen Raheel Sharif had to come to his rescue.

Panama Papers leak has created a similar situation for Nawaz Sharif in 2016 and this time he is in the firing line of both Imran Khan as well as Gen Raheel sharif.  It will be a tough task for Nawaz  this time to defuse the political crisis fuelled by the  credibility crisis he is facing in the wake of these leaks.