ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) here on Thursday went a step further from its earlier demand of resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and called for early elections, in the wake of the joint investigation report (JIT) report over Panama Papers case.

The opposition party said that an in-house change would not be acceptable to it and justified its demand saying that such exercise would never be a threat to the democracy as early elections had also been held in a country like UK, dubbed as the “mother of democracy”.

‘The PTI wants to add one more thing to its demand; not only we want the resignation of PM but we also want that there is no new prime minister,” said PTI leader Babar Awan, while rejecting the demand of an in-house change.

He, while talking to reporters outside the Supreme Court, said that new elections were the only solution to the problem as it was the demand of the masses.

Awan, who has recently joined the PTI after quitting the PPP, said that the demand for early elections by his party was not novel as snap polls had been held in 11 countries of Europe and Asia in the last three years.

“And such countries faced no threat to democracy,” he said. “We are not [a banana state like] Rwanda, Brundi or Uganda,” he added.

Going a step further, he asserted that the verdict in Panama Papers case of the Supreme Court had used similar harsh wordings for the prime minister and his younger brother Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and thus both should resign.

Adding another name to the list of his demands, he said that according to the JIT report Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is involved in loot and plunder of national exchequer. “So Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, all three should resign.”

He reiterated this demand saying, “The opposition is demanding that all three should resign because they are trying to defame Pakistan internationally.”

Babar Awan, while giving reference to the JIT report, said that the PM had been found getting monthly salary from a Dubai-based offshore company.

He said the prime minister was insisting on not resigning, and added: “I want to tell him though he may keep on crying and weeping yet no one would accept him as a political martyr.”

PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi at a press conference however reiterated his party’s original demand of resignation of the prime minister for what he termed his “proven role in money laundering, concealment of assets, tax evasion and corruption”.

He along with other senior leaders of the party addressed a press conference at the National Press Club where they all called for the prime minister to step down immediately.

Qureshi claimed that the PML-N was in trouble because there was a difference of opinion inside the ruling party over the fate of the prime minister. Voices were being raised from within the PML-N for Nawaz Sharif’s resignation, he held.

He stated that the premier was forced to summon a cabinet meeting on Thursday to reassure members that “all is well”.

The PML-N’s parliamentary meeting is being called in a bid to hush the differences within party ranks, Qureshi was of the view.

It is shameful for a prime minister to remain in office once his own cabinet begins discussing his resignation, he said.

The JIT report has jolted Pakistan’s politics and the ruling party is moving towards a confrontation with national institutions, cautioned the PTI leader.

Qureshi went on to add that all opposition parties were on the same page on the matter of premier’s resignation and a joint meeting of all the opposition parties would be held on Friday to form a strategy on the issue.

The PTI vice chairman was in touch with all opposition parties, and added that the PTI and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had signed the application calling for a session of the National Assembly on the matter.

“I am in contact with Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI),” he said.

Qureshi added that a session of the Senate had been called on July 17, the day the Supreme Court’s special bench would hold its next hearing in the Panama case, on the requisition of opposition parties.

The PML-N’s rants about the so-called “conspiracy” being hatched against them and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) were lamentable, he said.

He went on to add that how the CPEC project could be affected by a regime change and pressed on the PML-N to bring into open “the conspirators”.

The CPEC is not dependent on any government, it was initiated long before PML-N came to power and it will keep going, Qureshi said.

PTI Secretary-General Jahangir Tareen, on the occasion, said that the PML-N lawyers’ act of raising objections at the JIT report was synonymous to a drowning man catching at a straw.

“The PTI provided documentary evidences of the Panama scandal,” he said.

Tareen stated that if the prime minister did not resign, the democratic values would be compromised as Nawaz Sharif had lost the credibility to head the government.

Now, PTI demands early elections

Imran Mukhtar