Pakistani PM rejects Panama allegations in parliament

Pakistani PM rejects Panama allegations in parliament

Opposition remains dissatisfied with Sharif's defense of his family's London properties and offshore companies

KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) - Pakistani premier has rejected all corruption allegations against his family, claiming that not a single penny has ever been transferred from Pakistan to offshore companies owned by his sons and daughter, according to local media reports.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has come under increasing pressure from opposition parties and reportedly also from the Pakistani army chief himself after Panama Papers last month revealed his family owned offshore companies, defended his fragile political position in a speech at the country’s parliament in Islamabad Monday.

Sharif blamed the opposition for ‘targeting” him in the name of accountability, saying his government would not be cowed down by such “baseless” and “slanderous” campaigns.

The Pakistani prime minister agreed to appear before the parliament after the country’s chief justice of Supreme Court rejected his request to form a judicial commission to probe the allegations.

Sharif was supposed to answer seven questions raised by the joint opposition parties, which sought clarification on the transfer of money into his two sons and daughter’s offshore companies.

“I assure you that not a single rupee [local Pakistani currency] has been sent abroad by me or my family. I am still ready for any kind of accountability,” Sharif said as his ruling party legislators thumped their desks in his support.

About his two controversial London apartments, which the local media has constantly played up as proof of his family’s corruption, Sharif said the properties in question had been bought after selling his family’s steel mills in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah, where he had lived in exile from 2002 to 2008 after his elected government was toppled by the then army chief, Gen. Pervez Musharraf..

Last month, Sharif's eldest son, Hussain Nawaz, admitted in an interview with a local television that his family owned the offshore companies and the London flats. He had insisted that the transaction were all legal and refused to make his assets public, claiming that such a move might harm his business interests.

Dismissing tax evasion allegations, the premier said his family had paid a sum of 10 billion rupees ($10 million) in taxes during the last 23 years.

His response did not satisfy the opposition, which staged a walk out from the parliament in protest.

Opposition leader Khursheed Shah rejected the prime minister’s clarification, saying the latter’s vague responses had raised the number of opposition’s questions from seven to 70.

“The prime minister has lost a golden opportunity to clear his position. He has not given a reply to even a single question. We are completely dissatisfied with his response,” Shah said in his brief address before leading a walkout, according to televised comments.

A meeting of all opposition parties, meanwhile, has been convened for Tuesday to chalk out a joint protest movement against the government, the opposition leader added in his comments to the media.

Sharif came into power for a third term following his right-wing Pakistan Muslim League party’s landslide victory in the 2013 elections. His previous two terms as prime minister had ended prematurely under pressure from Pakistan military. Observers say that now the fate of his third term hangs in balance with the latest Panama scandal.

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