Pakistan opposition alliance in the offing, to prevent leaders’ arrests

PPP, PML-N to devise joint strategy against possible arrest of Zardari, Sharif and others in money laundering, corruption cases

Islamabad: With opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif in jail and the cloud of arrests hovering over Bilawal House and Raiwind’s Jati Umra palace, the main opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) — have expedited efforts to form a grand opposition alliance. They are trying to avert the possible arrest of opposition leaders including PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif, and his nephews Hamza and Salman in corruption cases.

Although PML-N and PPP both are part of the opposition benches in the Parliament House, party differences have kept them apart in the National Assembly and the Senate. Thus, they could not devise a joint strategy to counter the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on national issues.

However, the recent political and judicial developments have almost ascertained a possible alliance of the two, with JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman as chief mediator.

PTI Chairman and Prime Minister Imran Khan in a televised address on Wednesday indicated the government was going to move against “corrupt” politicians, who will be held accountable for past “misdeeds.”

Moreover, a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted on the orders of the Supreme Court to probe money laundering and fake accounts cases has recently discovered more than 30 fake accounts through which transactions worth billions of rupees were made.

According to the head of the JIT, the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Additional Director of the General Economic Crime Wing Ehsan Sadiq, and seven individuals including PPP Co-Chairman Zardari and his sister Talpur are also involved in using those accounts for suspicious transactions.

The accounts were allegedly used to channel funds received through kickbacks, the FIA official has submitted in the Supreme Court.

Besides the individuals, 210 companies were also found with alleged links to the case, the JIT report added; 47 of these companies are associated with the Omni Group, which also owns 16 sugar mills, and 334 people are allegedly involved in these transactions.

Since investigation in the benami accounts case is in the final stage, legal experts say it is quite possible that Zardari and Talpur can be taken into custody next week by the FIA for further probe into the case.

Pending decisions

Similarly, the temporary relief that Nawaz Sharif got from Islamabad High Court against the Accountability Court’s conviction is also under scrutiny, as the Supreme Court of Pakistan has also begun hearing anti-graft body National Accountability Commission’s (NAB) appeal against the high court decision.

NAB has asked the apex court to set aside the high court decision ­— suspending Sharifs’ conviction by the Accountability Court — and restore the latter’s July 2018 verdict against Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Captain Safdar in the Avenfield apartment references and send them back to jail.

Besides, the decision against Sharif in two other cases, Al-Azizia and Flagship, is also likely in November, forcing the two main political parties to put their differences aside and present a united front in order to be able to negotiate with the government.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman has held a number of meetings regarding this, with the leaders of both parties. The All Parties Conference (APC) will convene on October 31, Wednesday, to devise a common strategy against the government’s “anti-democratic” policies.


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