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Post-Panama Papers challenges

As the PML-N leadership tries to wriggle out of the financial scam, opponents brace for a political change

Post-Panama Papers challenges

If the Sharif family had accepted the advice tendered by some elderly Senators, it could have avoided the storm and the antecedent turbulence following the infamous Panama Paper Leaks.

In 1990, when Mian Nawaz Sharif was elected prime minister the first time, his well-wishers — party loyalists amongst Senators — asked him to set up a trust to manage the Sharif family business in keeping with the tradition of the first rightful Caliph of Islam. They said that if the Sharif family business was managed by a trust during the tenure of his premiership, the step would help in keeping the rumour-mongers at bay and the family image untarnished.

The proposal was considered by the family, but its oligarch did not like it. He argued: After privatisation by ZAB the family had braved difficult times and if the tide has now turned favourable why should not they benefit from it.

Some political opponents of Nawaz believe that the Panama Papers have provided them with a god-sent opportunity to knock-down the regime.

However, the political circles sympathetic to Nawaz term the leaks an international conspiracy to create difficulties for those leaders who do not happen to be in the good books of the leading global power these days. They contend that the Panama Paper Leaks aim at creating difficulties for characters in the leaked data and keeping them and their countries destabilised until they start dancing to the tune of the leaders of the main global power. Coming after Obama administration’s failure to force this country to make a drastic reduction in its tactical weapons, the perception gets some credence.

Secret agents from several countries, including intermediaries of the US CIA, have used the services of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to “conceal” their activities, German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on April 12, 2016. “Secret agents and their informants have made wise use of the company’s services,” wrote the newspaper which obtained a massive stash of 11.5 million documents from the company that is sending shockwaves around the globe. The present leaks could be a handiwork of forces that wish to arrest the resurgence of Russia and curtail the global influence of a rising China.

Hostile intelligence agencies, especially Indian RAW, are trying to destabilise Pakistan after many friendly countries have appreciated CPEC’s true potential, Pakistan Army Chief Raheel Sharif stated on April 12, 2016 while addressing in Gwadar. It goes without saying that stability is a must for foreign investment.

Recently, Zarb-e-Azab has been launched in Punjab as well. Some quarters seem bent to shift focus from the successes in Zarb-e-Azab, including the recent capture of a high-profile Indian spy.

Henceforth rich Pakistanis with political ambitions will think many times before siphoning off money abroad or making illegal investments elsewhere.

At a recent seminar held in Islamabad, leaders of major political parties called for vigilance to foil the “ongoing systematic efforts” by undemocratic circles to derail parliamentary democracy in the country.

Whatever the case may be, under mounting pressure the prime ministers of Iceland and Ukraine have tendered resignations from their offices, but leaders like Putin, Cameron and Nawaz have decided to face the situation boldly. Meanwhile, Nawaz has cancelled all engagements and proceeded on a 3-day visit to the UK for medical check-up. According to Canada-based Tahirul Qadri (Mian Nawaz’s main opponent amongst clerics believing that their face was acceptable to the West), the prime minister’s London visit was guised to cook account books.

However, the reaction of some political players to every challenging situation looks like rocking the very boat that they happen to be riding. While planning for agitation, public meetings or sit-in at Raiwind, perhaps, they have forgotten what followed the public demonstrations in the late 1950s and before the 1977 putsch. The earlier “D” Chowk sit-in (Dharna) by the Imran Khan and Qadri duo had cost the country dearly.

According to analysts, with his government facing multiple challenges, it is hard to predict whether Nawaz can make to the end of his term in 2018. Of course, the outcome will depend upon the PML-N leaderships’ ability to handle the present crisis.

However, in the long-run, the country may gain from the current tense situation that has resulted from the infamous Panama Papers. One believes that henceforth rich Pakistanis with political ambitions will think many times before siphoning off money abroad or making illegal investments elsewhere.

Alauddin Masood

alauddin masood
The writer is a freelance columnist based at Islamabad. He can be reached at [email protected]

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