LAHORE - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday visited former Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani at the latter’s Defence residence to discuss the government-opposition row over the Panama leaks issue.

The prime minister went to the Gilani House along with Begum Kalsoom Nawaz and son Hussain Nawaz. The former prime minister warmly received Nawaz Sharif on his arrival. The visitors presented bouquets, sweets, fruits and gifts to the host.

During around one-hour stay at the Gilani House, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif felicitated his predecessor over the recovery of his son Haider Ali Gilani from three years’ captivity of Afghanistan-based Al Qaeda.

He also expressed good wishes for the Gilani family in addition to sharing views with the former PM on the current political situation in a friendly atmosphere. The prime minster expressed his desire to take all political parties along on the national issues. He also expressed his resolve to end terrorism and make the country totally peaceful.

No official statement was released on the meeting, but a private TV channel claimed the prime minister touched the issue of the Panama leaks and said his children were ready to face the probe and get their names cleared about the offshore companies. The prime minister also sought help of the PPP for the sake of democracy in the country, the channel said, adding the former prime minister termed terrorism the biggest threat to the country, urging all to join hands to curb it.

Given the existing political situation, the current meeting between Nawaz Sharif and former prime minister of PPP era is being read by political observers as more than its face value. The PM’s visit to Gilani has come when he is set to depart for London for medical treatment, leaving the Panama scam behind.

The PPP leadership has been quite hostile to the prime minister over the offshore companies of his children. Bilawal Bhutto has demanded an inquiry into the source of money for the Sharifs’ offshore companies while Yousaf Raza Gilani also supported the demand of his party leader. The demand for resignation of the PM, however, failed to build pressure on the government as Bilawal’s stance could not get overwhelming acceptance within the PPP leadership. Later, when the prime minister addressed the Parliament on Monday last, a lukewarm response to the same by the PPP-led opposition on the floor of the house further changed the situation somewhat in favour of the government. After a very brief address by Leader of the Opposition Khurshid Shah, the opposition staged a walkout on that evening. Later, ANP, a component party of the opposition, parted ways and joined the government camp. Things have now become further smooth for the government as a joint committee of the government and the opposition is set to frame mutually acceptable terms of reference (ToRs) for the Panama Papers probe. This has eased pressure on the prime minister and the ruling side for the time being.

The meeting between the sitting and former prime minister apparently was of a social nature, but in view of the observers, it carries the significance of bringing the PPP and the PML-N closer to each other and helping the government as happened in 2014 when the PTI alone was holding dharna protest against the government while all other parties were united in the Parliament, throwing weight behind the prime minister and the PML-N government in the name of saving democracy. At that time the PPP, in particular, had come to the government rescue in a big way.