ISLAMABAD - The discord and cracks in the Joint Opposition team in Parliamentary Committee on Panama Papers, on dealing with the government negotiators who are not prepared to concede ground, has rung alarm bells in the ranks of the mainstream opposition parties, which sincerely want to take the matter to its logical conclusion through dialogue.

Sources aware of the developments taking place on this front informed The Nation that Leader of Opposition in Senate Barrister Ch. Aitzaz Ahan, an architect of the opposition’s drive on probe into the Panama Papers revelations, was worried over the situation and was trying to keep the opposition parties intact on the matter although he knew it well that government negotiators in the Panama Papers panel would not accept the Joint Opposition’s tailored terms of reference, yet he was patiently handling the issue.

Soon after the divergent views coming from Awami National Party (ANP) Senator Ilyas Bilour and PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi on boycott of the committee on ToRs after the seventh sitting of the committee, Ch. Aitzaz Ahsan stepped in and wisely tackled the issue saying that the opposition members of the committee would take the decision on their future course with consensus in case the government team would not show any flexibility on the matter.

Sources further informed that after the meeting Ch. Aitzaz Ahsan contacted Shah Mahmood Qureshi and advised him to be patient and let the government side fully exposed on the issue and not provide them an escape route by boycotting the committee’s proceedings.

Sources further informed that it was due to the persuasion of Ch. Aitzaz Ahsan that PTI Chairman Imran Khan had placated the situation and asked Shah Mahmood Qureshi to devise some joint strategy to move forward on Panama Papers probe in consultation with other opposition parties.

These sources said that PTI leadership in their consultative meeting decided to move along with other opposition parties on the issue as the option of agitation and mobilising street power against the government is always there.

Parliamentary sources aware of the developments taking place on this front informed that ANP leadership was not ready to take the matter to streets and would press for resolving the issue through negotiations and even if the Parliamentary Committee would fail to hammer out some mutually acceptable terms of reference, the ANP would prefer to once again take back the matter to the Parliament to pressurise the government.

On the other hand Muttahida Qoumi Movement (MQM) wanted the probe into the corruption including the Panama Papers revelations in totality and opposed to some person-specific or piece meal investigation into the corruption associated with the political elite.

MQM member of the committee Barrister Saif had not attended the last two meetings of the committee but the party officials said that he (Saif) had skipped the meetings owing to some personal engagements and they are very much part of the ToRs panel and wanted to see the matter resolved through negotiations.

A source in PML-Q said that initially Q-leadership also wanted to see the issues of written off loans and misuse of authority be annexed with Panama Papers and offshore companies but later the PPP leadership prevailed and they accepted to narrow down the probe to Panama leaks to hunt down the Sharifs.

On the other hand the sources in the ruling PML-N confirmed that government negotiators would not accept the ToRs prepared by the Joint Opposition and would also not accept that the probe should start from the Prime Minister and his family.

Similarly the government team was not ready to dissociate the written off loans and corruption through misuse of official status and other related matters from the Panama Papers probe, another source in the PML-N confirmed.

Anticipating the matter spilling out of the Parliamentary Committee on Panama Papers, the government team members had started approaching the opposition parties’ leadership to dispel the impression that government was not serious in resolving the issue through negotiations.

Kh Saad Rafique and Anusha Rehman had held meeting with Jamaat Islami Amir Sirajul Haq in Lahore yesterday while in coming days they would be meeting the heads of other political parties as well.

With government and opposition negotiators digging in their heels on Panama Papers probe the possibility of some negotiated settlement of the issue seemed bleak as in the seven sittings of Parliamentary Committee on Panama Papers both sides had even failed to cross the threshold toward the way forward on the probe mechanism, mainly the terms of reference for the probe commission. While for the formation of probe commission in the light of the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s direction both sides would be requiring another marathon exercise of doing legislation.