ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday told his team of ministers that the government would not bow to the pressure from the opposition parties and prove its mettle.

Officials privy to the cabinet meeting held here told The Nation that the prime minister showed determination to counter the opposition’s anti-government campaign.

Sharif who chaired the cabinet meeting has been under immense pressure from the rivals since early April to quit over the Panama leaks scandal involving his family.

Millions of confidential documents from the Panamanian Mossack Fonseca law firm showed how the company helped rich and powerful clients across the world with shady businesses.

Among the clients were three of PM Sharif’s children who carried out business transactions that might be judged as activities designed to money laundering and tax evasion. The children initially denied the transactions, but, later, admitted their links to offshore companies.

The Supreme Court yesterday ruled the prime minister cannot take decisions on financial matters without the federal cabinet’s approval.

Justice Saqib Nisar, in a judgment, announced on a plea against the notification of increased imposition of tax, said: “The prime minister cannot take decisions by himself, or by supplanting or ignoring the cabinet because the power to take decisions lies with the federal government or the cabinet and the unilateral decisions taken by him would be a usurpation of powers.” He added: “The decisions of the federal government are the decisions of the cabinet and not of the prime minister.”

Last day, the Election Commission of Pakistan issued notices to Prime Minister Sharif and other leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz named by four political parties regarding the Panama leaks issue. PM Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Hamza Shehbaz and Capt Muhammad Safdar have been directed to submit their response to the allegations on September 6.

Sharif’s rivals have also submitted references to the National Assembly seeking his disqualification for allegedly concealing details of his assets in the nomination papers filed for 2013 general elections.

A cabinet member who attended the meeting said the PM was disappointed with the opposition’s behavior, especially with the politics of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. “He is ready to listen to genuine questions, but is firm the government will not bow to undue pressure over petty issues,” the minister said.

Another source said the PM tasked his ministers to give a befitting response to the opposition in a ‘gentleman’s language.’

“He is also disturbed with the way Imran Khan and some of his party leaders criticise the government. He has asked us to remain polite, but respond actively,” the source added.

An official statement said the cabinet meeting had discussed the political and security challenges being faced by the nation.

The PM and his team were satisfied with the results of the anti-terror operations in the country and were hopeful the menace would be defeated as the nation was united to face the evil.

The statement said Sharif tasked members of the cabinet to make an aid policy for the relatives of the victims of terrorism-related incidents.

He urged the members of the federal cabinet to formulate a package which would provide the affected people’s children with education and employment and financially assist their families.

“For the victims of terrorism acts, the setup of an endowment fund should be announced as soon as possible,” said the prime minister. He also directed the authorities to check feasibility of setting up a national endowment fund for the victims of terrorism at the earliest.

The prime minister also directed the members of the cabinet to present a detailed report regarding the decisions taken during the meeting at the next federal cabinet session.

“Our primary goal should be to complete the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor as soon as possible,” he said, adding all efforts should be made to complete all energy and power projects before 2018.

The prime minister expressed satisfaction over the pace of ongoing energy and infrastructure projects under the CPEC and said the timelines of all the projects must be met.

Nawaz Sharif said: “Our future planning in terms of energy and infrastructure requirements must be the top priority if we want to reap the benefits of the ongoing projects.”

The cabinet was briefed on progress on the different projects being implemented under the CPEC, the statement said.

The prime minister ordered quick completion of all the energy, infrastructure and socio-economic uplift projects in the region.

Nawaz Sharif said he was the biggest supporter of exploiting the potential of Thar coal reserves.

The cabinet approved memorandum of understanding between Pakistan and Turkmenistan on defence cooperation. It also approved signing of Negotiated Treaty on Extradition between Pakistan and Kazakhstan.

The cabinet, while approving, in principle, the summary of the housing and works division regarding the joint venture policy for land development in collaboration with the private sector, to provide accommodation or plots to government servants before retirement, formed a committee to fine-tune the policy guidelines.

The policy envisages providing plots to 100,000 federal government employees. The committee will comprise Minister for Housing and Works Akram Durrani, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Law and Justice Minister Zahid Hamid, and may co-opt any other member. The committee will present its report to the cabinet.

Ex-post-facto approval to signing of the ‘Loan Agreement for Energy Sectors Reforms Programme-II’ between Pakistan and Japan was accorded.

Negotiating memorandum of understanding between office of the auditor general of Pakistan and National Audit Department of Malaysia on cooperation in public sector auditing also got the nod.

Approval to signing of bilateral MoU between the Supreme Audit Institution of Pakistan and the State Audit Office of Vietnam on cooperation in public sector auditing was granted.

The meeting approved initiation of negotiations between the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the Central Bank of Russia on signing of MoU on ‘Banking Supervisory Cooperation.’

Signing of agreement between Pakistan and Turkmenistan on abolition of visa for holders of diplomatic passports was also approved.

The meeting also approved signing of the ‘Negotiated Treaty on Extradition’ between the Pakistan and Kazakhstan.

Talks on the MoU between Pakistan and Kenya on ‘Cooperation in Combating Illicit Trafficking and Abuse of Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and their Precursors’ were also approved, in principle, said the official handout.