Pakistan’s Supreme Court has heard the defence’s arguments in the Panama Papers case involving members of the prime minister’s family, while marches are staged by hundreds of people across Islamabad demanding Nawaz Sharif’s resignation.
The court on Tuesday directed all the respondents to submit their comments to form a commission to investigate the Panama Papers leaks before adjourning the hearings, which will resume on Thursday, according to local media reports.
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A petition filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has levelled corruption allegations at Sharif and his family and demanded an investigation.
Sheikh Rasheed, of the PTI-allied Awami Muslim League, has demanded that a commission be formed to follow up the matter.
Another petition was filed by the Jamaat-e-Islami demanding an investigation into all Pakistani companies named in the Panama Papers.
The hearing coincides with days of anti-government protests led by the opposition politician Imran Khan. He called for a shutdown of Islamabad on Wednesday, to pressure Nawaz Sharif to resign, but reports on Tuesday suggested that he had backed down.
Instead of the protest, Khan said that he would hold a “celebratory” rally, following a decision by the Supreme Court to pursue a case linked to Sharif.
“On the Supreme Court’s advice, we have decided that tomorrow we will thank God and celebrate a day of thanks at [Islamabad’s] parade ground,” Khan told media.
Container road blocks
Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said scuffles resumed between Imran Khan supporters and police on Tuesday, however the government managed to stop the protesters marching towards the city by blocking roads with containers and by using of tear gas.
“The court, which also took up the hearing of Panama data leaks that implicate [Sharif] and his family, has asked both sides to come to an agreement to repose confidence in the court, after which there is a likelihood of a judicial commission being formed,” he said.
“However, we are not sure if that would be enough to stop Imran Khan’s march aiming at locking down Islamabad.”
Two PTI supporters reportedly died after inhaling tear gas used by police to prevent hundreds of protesters from entering Islamabad on Tuesday, the opposition party said.
“Two of our workers have been killed due to excessive use of expired tear-gas shells,” said Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a senior PTI leader, said on local Geo TV.
Local authorities could not immediately be reached to confirm any deaths.
Pakistan police launched a nationwide crackdown on Monday, arresting up to 1,800 PTI supporters following intermittent clashes.
Amnesty International on Tuesday called on Pakistan to release the activists detained before a planned mass protest
Champa Patel, the UK-based rights monitor’s South Asia director, said there was no justification for what she called a “repressive crackdown” by police.
Analysts believe the role of the all-powerful army will be key in determining the outcome of the ongoing confrontation, and Sharif may need to strike a deal with them that would leave him further weakened to ensure his survival.