ISLAMABAD: The federal government has decided to hire the services of renowned lawyers to save the ruling family from disqualification in the wake of references filed against it following revelations made by the Panama Papers. A team of senior lawyers comprising former federal minister Khalid Anwar, former attorney generals Makhdoom Ali Khan and Salman Butt and former advocate general Punjab Khawaja Haris has been set up, which would also be assisted by sitting Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali. The team will not only represent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, PM’s son-in-law Captain (r) Safdar and Hamza Shahbaz in front of the National Assembly speaker but also defend them at the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).Sources said that hefty fees will be paid to the team of lawyers from the national exchequer. If government fails to submit reply on references filed by PTI Chairman Imran Khan and former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in the office of the NA speaker by September 6, the matter would automatically be referred to the ECP, according to the constitution.On the other hand, it has become extremely necessary for the NA speaker, who also belongs to the ruling party, to show his impartiality in not only dealing with the references filed against his party leader and family but also one filed against PML-N’s worst opponent, Imran Khan. Political observers are of the view that if NA speaker wants to save his honour, the best option with him is to recuse himself from the hearing of the references and nominate someone else in his place, just like the apex court does in some situations.When contacted, lawyer of former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, Ahsan Sheikh confirmed that the government had hired the services of some renowned lawyers to defend the prime minister and his family. Sheikh said that they have attached with the reference some solid proofs, which, according to him, are more than enough to disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He said Nawaz Sharif during his stint as Punjab chief minister had issued several SROs regarding writing off of his personal loans. “Moreover, we have raised questions on his loyalty towards the country. We have also emphasised on the matter of pardon given to him by then president Pervez Musharraf under a deal which resulted in their departure for Saudi Arabia. He has not mentioned his pardon in the nomination papers,” he said, maintaining that in their view, his conviction still stands valid.Sheikh said that matters regarding purchase of property abroad in the name of the PM and his family members as well as business affairs of his children have also been discussed in the reference. When contacted, ECP former secretary Kanwar Dilshad said that the disqualification references may not only prove to be an Achilles heel for the government but are also the biggest challenge for the National Assembly speaker. He said it has also been pointed out in the reference that Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif were defaulters of loans worth six billion rupees at the time of 2013 general elections but both concealed this fact in their nomination papers filed to the ECP at that time.He said a new Pandora’s box is likely to open when the government team submits its reply. He said that Section 104 of the Representation of the People Act was quite effective for disqualification of the prime minister and his colleagues. He said that the ECP will have to take direct action under Article 218 of the constitution to maintain its impartiality.Dilshad said as pressure mounts on the government, the six-hour long meeting between former president Asif Zardari and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar seems to be very important. But in the current scenario, government may not benefit even if the PPP adopts a soft stance before the ECP, he opined. “Because, the reference has been filed by the PTI, which has no soft corner for the ruling regime,” he said. “One thing I can say with surety that if decisions on disqualification references are made on merit, almost 70 percent of politicians will be disqualified,” he concluded.