ISLAMABAD: Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif arrived in the federal capital on Friday evening to hold important meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and PML-N’s top cadres in connection with his scheduled appearance before the Joint Investigation Team on Saturday (today).
Sources said the younger Sharif arrived at the Punjab House in Rawalpindi from Lahore and held separate meetings with federal ministers, including Khawaja Asif, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and the party’s Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq.
The chief minister was accompanied by provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah who also attended the meetings, insiders said.
Later, party leaders called on the prime minister and held a meeting with him at the PM House, it is learnt. These crucial meetings took place just a day after the PM appeared before the JIT.
The panel probing the Sharif family’s offshore assets quizzed the prime minister for three hours.
Party circles said Shehbaz’s appearance before the JIT was significant given his fiery temperament.
“Let us see how he manages to deal with the [JIT’s] questioning,” said a PML-N lawmaker requesting anonymity.
He said some among PML-N leaders believed Shehbaz to be in a better position to respond to the JIT than the PM and other members of the Sharif family.
“He has grip over issues and has the necessary aggression and passion to win an argument,” the PML-N leader remarked.
On Friday, Shehbaz’s spokesperson clarified that the CM had not been ‘summoned’ by the JIT, but was called to assist the judicial panel because of his familiarity with the Hudaibya Paper Mills case.
Shehbaz was not named in the Panamagate case.
Prior to this episode, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah threw what seemed to be an open challenge directed at the JIT members — asking them to summon the Punjab CM.
“He [Punjab CM] will not only [be able to] address the queries of JIT members in detail, but also explain how this business evolved and the details of the money trail. JIT members may grow tired of listening to him, but he will not tire of speaking,” the provincial minister told media persons the other day.
Sources said Shehbaz is likely to address issues involving the letter of the Qatari prince and respond to questions about businesses of Hamza Shehbaz.
Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al Thani’s refusal to appear before the JIT has added to the ruling camp’s worries.
The Qatari prince’s letter was submitted by the Sharif family’s attorneys in the SC to defend their money trail in the Panamagate case.
So far, however, the JIT has not summoned the member of Qatar’s royal family.
“There will be problems if and when JIT moves to summon him. This will be an embarrassing situation for us, not only in legal terms but also politically,” the PML-N sources said.
If case of such a situation, the ruling family might seek more time from the SC and JIT to win the favours of the Qatari prince.