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PTI scrambles to woo opposition parties in run up to ‘Raiwind march’

ISLAMABAD: As opposition parties shy away from committing to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s plan to march on the Raiwind Palace, the PTI appears to be on the back foot as it deliberates what course of action to take in the run up to its 20th Foundation Day.

Despite meetings with top Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leadership, the PTI was unable to receive support for its plans to march on Raiwind to protest the Sharif family’s ownership of offshore companies.

PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi met with Aitzaz Ahsan, Khursheed Shah and Saleem Mandviwalla on Tuesday, PPP sources said, asking them to team up for the march.

But the PPP leadership has not confirmed its participation.

Sources in the PPP say their leadership believes the Panama claims should be investigated.

“But they cannot come on board prematurely with the PTI unless there is an inquiry by the judicial commission and international forensic experts. In this respect, they are in agreement with the PTI.”

“We haven’t made any commitments with the PTI, and the PTI has not shared their strategy. We appreciate them taking us on board, but we can’t make a commitment yet because maybe they have some other strategy in mind,” said Aitzaz Ahsan, while speaking to reporters on Tuesday.

It is pertinent to mention that, directly or indirectly, the names of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, her nephew Hassan Ali Jaffery, Senator Rehman Malik, Senator Javed Pasha, and others have emerged in relation to the Panama Papers.

Ahsan also said PM Nawaz, who departed Tuesday for London on a personal visit, has gone there to seek Asif Ali Zardari’s advice on the Panama Papers and the rapid political developments underway since then.

He went on to say that the premier also had to sort out internal disputes that have arisen within the Sharif family regarding “inheritance.”

Nawaz Sharif cancelled scheduled visits to Karachi and then Turkey, while Finance Minister Ishaq Dar also cancelled a scheduled visit to Washington for IMF and World Bank meetings “in light of the PM’s visit to the UK” for ─ ostensibly ─ ‘medical reasons’.

Later on Tuesday evening, Imran Khan also announced he will visit the United Kingdom on the weekend to hold “fund raisers and a jalsa for Kashmir.”

Imran said he will also be meeting two companies specialising in forensic tax audits.

Despite a common wish to see the PML-N government held accountable, both JI and PPP seem to be reluctant to throw in their lot with the PTI beyond a cautious agreement on an independent probe into the allegations.

In a joint press conference, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq announced that their parties will be “in touch” as JI marches for a “corruption-free Pakistan movement” in Lahore on April 23, a day before the PTI “celebration” in Islamabad.

Correcting himself after a glaring Freudian slip, Qureshi clarified that his party’s April 24 rally will instead be a “20th Foundation Day celebration” rather than a “protest”, adding it “will be held at the F-9 park in Islamabad, if the government cooperates”.

The statement comes just a day after Interior Minister Nisar banned all political gatherings in Islamabad’s D-Chowk and F-9 park.

“It is our political right to celebrate our foundation day,” he said.

Haq and Qureshi both expressed the view that there should be a transparent and independent probe into the Panama Papers allegations against the PM.

“There is great harmony and proximity in our views on this subject,” said Qureshi on his meeting with JI chief Sirajul Haq.

The day news of the Panama Papers broke, Imran Khan claimed that the revelations in the Panama Papers vindicated his party’s stance and reiterated his call for fresh elections and probes by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Federal Board of Revenue, and the Election Commission of Pakistan.

As Imran Khan rejected a ‘one-member judicial commission’ announced by the PM to probe his family, calling instead for a forensic audit by NAB, and then nominated Dr Shoaib Suddle to initiate a thorough investigation into the financial holdings of the PM, his party shows no sign of letting the issue settle.

Later, in an address to the nation, the PTI chief demanded that PM Nawaz Sharif’s government form an inquiry commission led by the Chief Justice of Pakistan to probe the premier and his family following the startling revelations made in the Panama data leaks.

The PTI chief said he will give the government time till Apr 24 – his party’s 20th foundation day – to take appropriate action, after which he will announce a future course of action.

“We give you time till Apr 24 to form a commission on these lines. If the rest of the world is investigating, we will give them the opportunity to take action. I will come out with a future course of action on Apr 24.”


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