Jul 20, 2017 Dr. Niaz Murtaza Comments Off on Panama drama
Dr. Niaz Murtaza
The moral and practical cases are clear. The PM must himself quit, JIT report apart, as for months he has failed to prove legitimate his family UK flats. While his sons are the owners, his role as clan head and recipient of big gifts from them morally cripples him. Sordid details of huge wealth, carefully hidden so far, are shamefully out in public. Distracted, he cannot govern and will damage Pakistan and its democracy.
But he may quit only if he feels the SC will fire him. The SC started an inquiry based on mere though strong suspicion via its wide 184(3) optional powers. Many had criticized this unprecedented act. But it has so far docked a sitting PM and the precedence is established. Thus, such inquiries will now be seen as useful action templates against others. But the scope of 184(3) in such cases must be defined to avoid swamping the SC. The SC must coax the government to make NAB stronger to keep its own role exceptional. While that happens, the SC must ensure that others accused of titanic crimes, e.g., Zardari, Musharraf and Altaf, are tried soon to dispel charges of SC selectivity.
Even with Sharif, it must tread carefully and stick to the law or strong precedence to avoid political upheavals that may haunt us for long. This means convicting him only after a fair trial in a trial court and even starting trial only if the JIT report goes beyond suspicion towards physical evidence. This may take months. So the next issue is whether the SC will disqualify him while starting a trial. The law gives this right to the ECP but the SC has oddly disqualified many MPs directly, mostly where guilt could be shown easily sans trial, e.g., degrees proven faked easily via one HEC letter. Even if the JIT gives such obvious proof against Nawaz (e.g., about forgery, perjury or hidden assets), the SC must let the ECP decide. If he is not disqualified, then we may hit rough weather if the PTI starts street protest spread over months without result like in 2014. Irrespective, Pakistan will remain in limbo till the next polls. Sharif can spare us all this by resigning.
Pakistan is seeing real accountability of its top leaders for the first time, invariably under democracy. In weeding out corrupt leaders electorally and now legally, a 9-year old flawed democracy has shown its edge over 40 years of unelected rule. Had we stuck to democracy instead of looking towards Pindi, things would have been much better politically today. Some claim even this whole affair stems from Pindi boys’ pranks who want to preempt a meek Sharif from being more assertive once he gains a Senate majority and a 4th term. Given the Pindi boys’ past pranks, this idea cannot be rejected outright. But neither can it be accepted without proof, which may be impossible to get given their opaque ways. In the past, they have acted against civilians not towing their line. Are they now so bold and proactive to act against a future uncertain threat? Why would SC judges aid them: due to bribe, threat or ideological alignment? Are we still a banana republic? All this makes it tough to form even initial views on this issue. Such rumors, even if true, must not stop Sharif’s trial. But they make it more crucial that the trial meets high standards of proof and process, with minimum use of SC discretion. Otherwise, it may look like a judicial coup. The rule of law means not just that crooks are tried but also that the trials are fair.
Sharif’s exit will not end civ-mil tensions, which are rooted in the simple reality that Pindi’s security policies ruin Pakistan. Political rulers soon grasp this reality and resent so many critical calls being off-limit for them. This starts a tug of war between the twin cities. We know about generals (wrongly) betraying their civilian benefactors: Ayub, Zia and Musharraf. But civilians (Bhutto and Sharif) groomed by the army have (rightly) turned against it too. The same may happen with Imran, even if he now has the army nod. The man is not money hungry like Sharif, but is ruthless and power hungry and hates sharing power and limelight more than Sharif. So, ties between him and Pindi may not be easy if he wins. His victory is iffy even if both father and daughter are barred. The Sharifs are a big clan and some will survive legally to run. The PML-N, representing strong Punjabi groups, will not disappear like PML-Q. But the two right-wing Punjab parties may become more even politically.
Some say Panama will end sleaze in Pakistan. Sleaze originates from the needs of vast sections of our economy. With billions coming from only slightly less corrupt China, sleaze and low rule of law (barring security) will remain capital’s needs in Pakistan for long. Morally speaking, sleaze must end. But the moral lens is only prescriptive, not predictive like social sciences lenses. However, the former is proactive, the latter passive. Only by using both can we tackle sleaze. The bi-lens view reveals long-term democratic struggle as the best tool against sleaze.
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