Irshad Salim (MAMOSA Report) — Several thousand supporters of Pakistan’s popular opposition leader Imran Khan have rallied in the capital Islamabad to call for the resignation of the country’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, over his alleged corruption.
Friday’s rally came a week after Pakistan’s Supreme Court, acting on a petition submitted by Khan and several others, asked investigators comprising of civil-military agencies’ representatives to complete a probe into corruption allegations against Sharif and his sons within two months.
Amid chants of “Go, Nawaz! Go!” Khan told his supporters that Sharif will resign soon.
However, Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League party typically scoffs at predictions such as Khan’s, maintaining that the premier will remain in power until mid-2018 when his term ends.
According to revelations in the so-called Panama Papers, Sharif and his family allegedly transferred money from Pakistan to Qatar that was later used to buy properties in London – a charge vehemently denied by the PM and his family.
They have dismissed the claims as politically motivated, including muted complaints by many of his supporters of “manipulations” by the establishment.
The case has been making headlines since several months amid predictions it could determine the future of PM Sharif. However, odds remain in favor of continuity of civilian governance, analysts said.
Stocks rose following the highly anticipated decision last Thursday even though it did not give clean chit to the prime minister. “Nawaz Sharif has survived corruption ruling, it’s a good news for the stock exchange,” said one broker to BE2C2.
However, Faraz Jamshed, a lecturer of mechanical engineering and management at a university in Saudi Arabia was not a happy camper. He felt the nation has been short-changed. “I’m really disappointed from the decision,” he said.
A five-judge panel headed by Supreme Court’s Chief Justice issued a 3-2 ruling saying there was insufficient evidence to remove Sharif from office.
But the tribunal ordered further investigation of the money-laundering allegations against the prime minister and his children. So the jury is still out there while both camps celebrated the decision, each calling it their victory and distributed sweets in celebration.
Khan says until the probe is complete, Sharif should step down on moral grounds — a “what’s that” in Pakistan politics,”” quipped Arjumand Azhar, a media personality in Karachi.
Sharif has said that he would resign from office if the charges against him or any member of his family are proven to be true. But Khan including his arch-rival Zardari of Pakistan Peoples PArty (PPP) insist he should step down.
The PML says the apex court decision has exonerated Sharif. So do many PML supporters in USA, UAE and KSA whom BE2C2 asked for their take on the historical decision and the directives given by the top court. Some are worried though.
Khan on Friday called for social boycott of the prime minister over corruption. Many PTI supporters overseas agree, but many independents don’t and said it’s uncalled for.
“I call professionals, laborers and all to come out and give a strong message to all these failed institutions. Wherever you are, whatever you do, stand up against corruption, raise the slogan of go nawaz go,” Khan said while addressing the mammoth gathering.
“I appeal to the nation to stand up against corruption and join me in our protests against Nawaz Sharif,” he said, reminiscent of his previous two stints at making Sharif step down under public pressure.
He announced that he would hold public meetings in Nowshera, Sialkot and Karachi – Pakistan’s financial capital and its largest city decking the Arabian Sea shoreline.
Whether he will be able this time to force Sharif – with verdict somewhat partially in his favor too, remains an open-ended question given Pakistan’s murky politics.
Several Pakistanis overseas said they are happy though, that the process is moving. However, in Pakistan, a more intense discourse appears to have muddled the atmosphere post-verdict, indicating polarization amid ongoing development and economic growth, courtesy the $62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor — considered a game-changer.
“See what David Cameron said in Dhaka on Thursday,” pointed out Jalal Ahsan, a pharmacist in Toronto.
“Country doesn’t need only development, but also ‘accountability and rule of law’, Jalal quoted from Cameron’s speech in Bangladesh — Pakistan’s other half until 1971, where identical situation exists despite impressive economic growth.