Amid calls for his resignation, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday got into a huddle with his top aides to chalk out a strategy to deal with the Panama case probe panel's damning report that recommended filing of a graft case against him and his family.
The six-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that probed the Sharif family's business dealings in its 10-volume report submitted to the apex court yesterday recommended that a corruption case should be filed against Sharif and his sons Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz, as well as daughter Maryam Nawaz, under the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ordinance 1999.
It found Sharif and his children to be "living beyond the known means of income".
The report, however, was slammed by the Sharif government as "trash" with Sharif's close aide and minister for development Ahsan Iqbal in a press conference with other ministers, saying they will challenge the report in the Supreme Court and will "completely expose and unveil its contradictions and falsifications".
Sharif on Tuesday consulted senior party leaders and loyalists to formulate a policy to deal with the legal and political consequences of the high-level inquiry report against him.
Sharif also called his younger brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif from Lahore to be a part of a meeting attended by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, Minister of Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, Minister of Petroleum Khaqan Abbasi and other members of his legal team.
According to sources, today's meeting was more focused on how to defend the prime minister and his family in the Supreme Court which will hear the case on July 17 and has already asked the parties to respond in the light of the JIT report.
"The meeting has also expressed complete confidence in the leadership of the prime minister," sources said.
Sharif faces formidable legal and political challenges after the report. His fate is dependent on the verdict of the Supreme Court which will hear the arguments and decide on a future course of action.
It is likely that it may ask the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to launch the corruption case against Sharif and his children. But it may also reject the report after hearing the objections by the Sharif legal team.
But even before any action is taken, opposition parties have joined hands and are asking for his removal.
"Sharif has no reason to stay in power. He should resign immediately," Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf senior leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.
Pakistan Peoples Party leader Syed Khurshid Shah said the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) should start working on in-house change by replacing Sharif.
Sharif's nemesis Imran Khan told the media yesterday that Sharif should resign.
"There is no need of further trial or proceedings. He should go away and should be barred from leaving the country along with other family members," Khan had said.
Replying to the opposition, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar rejected the call for Sharif's resignation and said: "why he should resign. There is no allegation against him. The JIT report is faulty and we will defend the case before the Supreme Court".
Railway Minister Saad Rafique alleged that the conspiracy to remove Sharif was hatched outside and is being implemented through Imran.
Both the ministers were of the view that the JIT report was not final and it cannot force Sharif to resign.
Only the Supreme Court has the authority to take the final decision about the future of the prime minister, they said.