ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday seemed set to invite the opposition for talks on Panama leaks scandal despite opposition from some aides, official sources said.

The PM consulted his top advisers hours after receiving a letter from the Opposition Leader in National Assembly, Khurshid Shah, who sought investigations into the Panama leaks. Shah also sent to the PM the Terms of Reference (ToRs) agreed upon by the opposition parties.

The opposition’s ToRs say, “repeated public explanations and statements of the PM and members of his family have been manifestly contradictory inter se, and have raised more doubts and questions than they have answered.”

It added, “The Panama Papers revelations have brought Pakistan into disrepute globally by naming the prime minister’s family and other Pakistani nationals and have raised questions about the legality and propriety of their assets held abroad and in offshore companies.”

The rival parties proposed an independent commission led by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) to investigate the issue.

PM Sharif has already sent a letter to CJP Anwar Zahir Jamali to form a judicial probe commission. Until now the CJP has not responded to PM’s letter.

PTI leader Imran Khan yesterday said if the CJP responded to the PM’s letter and formed a commission, “it will not be acceptable.”

Official sources said PM Sharif summoned his close aides yesterday to discuss the content of Shah’s letter and the government’s strategy. “PM Sharif proposed talks with the opposition parties to take the matter forward and most of the ministers agreed. There were a few dissenting voices, especially of the Interior Minister (Ch Nisar Ali Khan),” a close aide told The Nation.

He said Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique were prominent among those who favoured talks but Nisar was totally against the idea of giving room to the opposition. The ministers left it to the PM to take the final decision, the source said.

Another official said Premier Sharif may choose to take his case to the parliament before holding talks with the opposition.

The PM is expected to brief the National Assembly on Panama leaks in the session starting from May 9. This will fulfil a key demand of the opposition parties – led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the PTI – who had been pressing Sharif to take the parliament into confidence.

“The PM will make the decision on how to go about it. He has got a green signal from majority of his team to hold talks with the opposition. Nawaz Sharif will also consult allies,” he added.

This week, Chaudhry Nisar and Law Minister Zahid Hamid rejected the ToRa jointly presented by the nine opposition parties. Hamid claimed the government’s ToRs were far better than the opposition’s so there was no need for a review.

Information Minister Pervez Rashid said opposition parties were focusing the PM and protecting their own people. “ToRs are not based on justice rather designed with the sole purpose of saving their own members from accountability,” he said.

Earlier yesterday, Khurshid Shah sent a letter to Prime Minister Sharif, asking him to take opposition parties into confidence over commission ToRs. He also apprised the premier about the stance of opposition parties.

Later, speaking to the journalists, Shah said the opposition parties compiled the ToRs unanimously, adding the opposition do not expect the government to accept the entire ToRs. He said government should point out the terms that are unacceptable.

The PPP stalwart also attached the joint communiqué of opposition parties’ May 2 meeting with the letter. The viewpoint of the opposition should be respected, he wrote in the letter.

“We do not want to topple Nawaz Sharif. We are the people who paved way for his return to the top seat by removing the restriction on election as PM for a third time. But we want the nation to know the truth. If the PM comes out clean, we will be happy,” he said.

He questioned, “If PM’s family avoids taxes and violates rules, how can we expect ordinary citizens to abide by the laws.”

The PPP veteran said, “We will hold talks on the matter provided the government sits with us. This is the charm of democracy to come together to sort out issues.”

The PM meanwhile also consulted PML-N leaders including Pir Sabir Shah, Nasir Iqbal Bosaan, Malik Shakir Bashir Awan and Najaf Abbas Sial.

Sabir said the PM was getting more popular in KP due to his development agenda. He said that the PTI-led government in the province had failed to deliver and as a result people were looking to PML-N to form the next government after the 2018 polls.