ISLAMABAD - As the prime minister was bombarded with suggestions from his cabinet members – ranging from standing firm to early elections – Army Chief Raheel Sharif threw the axe on the corrupt, multiplying the pressure on the beleaguered leader.

The sacking of six army officials was an extraordinary development in itself yet it gained more significance amid the Panama leaks wave.

The army chief’s action against the corrupt officers sent a clear message that he meant what he said a day earlier – across the board accountability.

A few kilometres away from the army chief’s office, the prime minister was consulting his aides on how to come out of the corruption allegations without sacrificing much.

There was a stream of suggestions – Law Minister Zahid Hamid even proposed snap polls which was immediately rejected - but all the King’s men could not find any amicable and acceptable solution.

Insiders said Sharif and his ministers discussed course of investigations pertaining to Panama leaks. The possibility of Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali-led commission to probe the Panama leaks and to contact the opposition parties for consensus was considered.

There were also rumours the government and the opposition might agree on reducing the five-year term of the government to four years for improved efficiency as the Panama issue moves further.

The government’s official version that Prime Minister vowed to improve performance of different institutions also meant a pledge to weed out corruption.

Former army chief Mirza Aslam Beg said the sacking of army officers was not the real message. “The actually message was sent a day earlier. General Raheel Sharif had talked of across the board accountability and to act against corruption much before he sacked the officers,” he said.

Beg said the action against corrupt army officers was not a new thing but making such decisions public was ‘extraordinary.’

“For decades, such elements have been removed from the services. General Ziaul Haq did it, (Pervez) Musharraf continued to do it and so on. This is the first time it has been shared with the public and it has come at a time when the government faces Panama leaks,” he added.

The former army chief said General Sharif had made his mind clear against corruption so it was the turn of the government to respond positively.

At this point, he remarked, the PML-N and the PPP were trying to strike a deal designed to save each other’s corruption. “They are getting together to protect each other. Hopefully the corrupt will not get out free this time,” he maintained.

He said the government should write to the Supreme Court and seek help to solve this issue. “I am of the firm belief that politicians should not investigate this scandal. They will absolve the others of charges and the corruption will continue to grow. The best option will be to seek the Supreme Court’s guidance. A judicial team should investigate this,” Beg emphasised.

Senior defence analyst Lt. General (Retd) Talat Masood said General Raheel Sharif had set an example for the politicians to go after the corrupt.

“This will build the pressure on the politicians to root out corruption. The pressure will also be on the judiciary,” he added.

Masood said the sacking of the corrupt army officers came at a time when certain sections were apprehensive about the involvement of Pakistan army in civilian matters.

He said the military had taken the lead in punishing corrupt officials. “This is not a good news for the corrupt. It will have serious and positive impact in the future,” he commented.

PTI leader Imran Khan was adamant on formation of a Chief Justice-led commission to probe the leaks and alleged corruption against the Prime Minister’s family. He has warned of staging a sit-in in front of Sharif’s Lahore’s Jati Umra residence if the government did not hold impartial probe.

Qamar Zaman Kaira, another PPP leader, said the army was a well-organised institution. “We welcome this decision. The process of accountability is must for every organization,” he added.

He said the government should also take a similar action in the wake of Panama Papers leaks.

PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the decision showed General Sharif’s sincerity and commitment to eliminate corruption. “He initiated action at his own institution proving that there is no holy cow in the country,” he added.

Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq also welcomed General Sharif’s decision, demanding a large-scale action against corrupt elements. “Army chief’s action is a clear message for government. I believe that corruption and Pakistan can’t go along. Corruption is a form of economic terrorism and deserves a similar action like terrorism,” the JI leader said.

AML chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed appreciated the army chief for his commitment against corruption.

PML-N leader Mohammed Zubair - Minister of State for Privatisation - said the army chief took a step in the right direction.

He contended the system of accountability in civil institutions differed from the one carried out in army, adding PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Sharif had been passed through the process of accountability.

PML-Q leader Ch Pervaiz Elahi said Gen Sharif initiated the cleansing process from his own house. He expressed hope the process will not stop here, adding that the facilitators of corruption should also be sent to jail.

Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf welcomed termination of military officers over corruption charges. In a statement, he said the army had set a great example by launching the anti-graft drive from its own institution.

Musharraf feared the corrupt elements in the politics would get united. However, he added the people of Pakistan would support the army’s initiatives against the menace.

Federal Minister Saad Rafiq claimed the government was not under pressure due to the army chief’s action against the corrupt. The pressure albeit was obvious.