ISLAMABAD: A day before the Supreme Court’s much-awaited judgement on the Panamagate, the top leadership of the ruling PML-N on Wednesday held marathon consultative sessions to deal with any situation arising out of the court’s verdict.
Soon after the meeting of the PML-N’s Sindh chapter, which was held apparently to discuss the party’s reorganisation in the province, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a low-key meeting of party members comprising his close aides — including federal ministers, lawmakers, advisers, special assistants and personal staff members — to discuss the expected Supreme Court decision and its possible implications on the Sharif family and the ruling party, The Express Tribune has learnt.
“Different possibilities were considered,” said a source privy to the meeting. The unannounced meeting took place apparently immediately after the prime minister met party members from Sindh in a bid to skip the media’s attention with regard to the Panamagate.
One of the possible scenarios arising out of the Supreme Court’s verdict, discussed in the meeting, was the possibility of a direct impact on the PM, the insider said.
“There is an opinion in the party that the PM may not be directly affected in consequence of the apex court’s verdict, but if his family members face the consequences, it would eventually have a negative impact on the premier, at personal level, and on the PML-N, at the party level,” he said.
To respond to the situation, the PML-N leadership is set to resort to public-friendly measures like reducing power outages — at least for the time being — in order to attract public support and to diffuse pressure on the party, it is learnt.
Another possible scenario, which is the centre of discussion within the party, is the possibility of formation a commission to probe the Panamagate — to ascertain the involvement of the Sharif family members in the mega corruption scandal.
“In such a scenario, the court can either ask the PM to step down till the commission completes the probe, and link the PM’s restoration to the commission’s findings — or the court can allow the PM to keep working, while ordering the formation of a commission to probe the scandal.
“Either way, it would be damaging for us — given that even if the PM is allowed to work and a commission is formed, pressure would mount on Sharif to step down and the PTI would fully cash in on the situation.”
A senior leader, who is regarded as one of the PM’s trusted confidantes, said the party leadership is deeply concerned regarding the apex court’s verdict.
“Even if the respondents get a clean chit by the apex court, the situation could be heading towards political confrontation — street agitation, protests and all that.”
The leader admitted that the ongoing unannounced and longer power outages fuelled anti-government sentiments. “The public sentiment is not favourable right now. In such a situation, if things go to the point of street agitation and the public joins the course, it would be a nightmare for us.”
For party circles, the possibility of premier’s disqualification in the Panamagate is, although the ‘least anticipated scenario,’ yet the PML-N would have no other option but to ‘go into public’ should such a situation arise.
The party leadership has not mulled over the option of installing the PM’s replacement in case Sharif becomes the casualty of the court’s verdict, the sources said.
In an attempt to pacify public anger over unprecedented load-shedding across the country, the PM inaugurated Bhikki Power Plant near Sheikhupura on Wednesday, a day ahead of its scheduled inauguration on April 20 (today).
This decision was taken keeping in view the SC verdict on the Panamagate scheduled today, the PM House sources said. The power plant has added 717 megawatts electricity to the national grid, the government claims.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, political analyst Kanwar Dilshad said either scenario emerging out of the SC’s decision would be a ‘win-win’ situation for the PTI.
“If a commission is formed, the opposition, especially the PTI, will get a chance to play politics and keep targeting the government on the Panamagate for few more months, in addition to pressing for the PM’s resignation till the completion of commission’s probe.
“If the court verdict doesn’t affect the Sharif family, things will go for street agitation and the PTI would try to mobilise full public support against the PML-N government. And if the PM is sent packing by the apex court, what else would the PTI want?”