There is always a two-sided picture in the toss of a coin. Pakistani politics is also facing two sided outcomes and perspectives in every single move and action taken either by ruling party or the opposition. Speculation is rife as to what lies in store for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family after the three judge implementation bench of the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday reserved its judgment at the end of five hearings on the final report of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT). The suspense is yet not over as the earth-shattering case will persist until the judgment is announced, for which the bench has yet to declare a date. However, it is most likely to appear by the end of this week.
As after long proceedings and hearing of arguments from both sides the SC has decided to reserve its judgment in the Panama Papers case. Primarily, it seems the SC is still not clear on disqualifying Nawaz Sharif (NS) from holding an office on account of money laundering, tax evasions and mismatching of public and private funds. The outcome is still not disclosed but both ruling and opposition party have given the green signal to accept the verdict of the court.
The current political monsoon provokes two likely actions; either the disqualification of the Prime Minister or early elections. The probability of holding early elections is quite low though disqualification of PM seems to be the fate of NS. Likewise, after the ruling party disqualifications there will be interesting twists and turn in the general elections planned for next year. There will be surprising yet unpredictable outcomes to be disclosed. Besides this, the parliamentary committee for electoral reform set up in 2014 is revising the bill passed in the National Assembly with the aim of making elections in Pakistan more transparent. The revised draft presented at the National Assembly has put forth an important recommendation which includes the grant of greater control and autonomy to the Election Commission over the bureaucracy with limited involvement of the Caretaker government. Now, if these Reforms bill get approved it will again present a road of opportunities parallel to a road of obstacles for parties competing against each other post-Panama fever.
Now, the question is what will happen next in the Pakistani political drama series. Once again there are two thought of actions either a bench will pass a disqualification order or ask the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to prepare reference in line with its guidelines for trials at an accountability court. In view of the court proceedings, there are differing statement of respondents and documents enclosed in the JIT reports and upon the closer inspection of the bench one thing is for sure that the Prime Minister and other respondents are most likely to get a clean chit.
Moreover, the April 20, 2017 verdict laid down that “the matter of disqualification of respondent number one (PM)” shall be considered. Furthermore, it was held that “if found necessary for passing appropriate order in this behalf the respondent number one or any other person may be questioned and examined”. So, it provides sufficient grounds that disqualification is around the corner and is the writing on the wall. In contrast, there is another view point that a disqualification is only destined if the top respondent is convicted after a due process of law under relevant sections of the accountability ordinance, but this is a very time consuming exercise and less likely to be practiced.
If the second route is followed and bench orders the NAB to file a reference instead of doing it itself, then it will definitely set a unique precedent which might be in contrary to constitutional provisions. According to former Attorney General Irfan Qadir, Article 187 of the constitution under which SC is dealing with the matter is also subject to Article 175 (clause II). He highlighted the issue that latter article does not allow the SC to exercise any power other than those granted by the Constitution and he is of view that SC is not granted the authority to disqualify a parliamentarian or to form a JIT.
In my view, NS himself has made the situation worse by complicating the things by his statements in the National Assembly and his address to the nation following the Panama leaks and by making tall claims that family was in possession of all the details on the sources of the funds used to purchase the properties. Because, when the crunch happened, and JIT was set in action, he left many loose ends in his story. We all are aware that his father was a multimillionaire businessman and NS with his long stretch in politics might not be in full knowledge of the details. Similarly, the presentation of the weakest Qatar link is also flawed. As universally, banks do not give over 10-year old records and likewise tax authorities do so for up to a period of 5 years.
Serving the political office twice, indeed thrice, at the highest national ranking indeed is a great honor and matter of pride. It is an undeniable fact the greater honor you get the higher expectations are attached with you and with a greater level of accountability.
Thus, in my view there is always two sides of a coin upon its flip. Therefore, if NS had presented his resignation on the appearance of the Panama case it would be a completely different scenario and a clever game played for the long run survival of the fittest. But, now in the current situation he has only one option; to play the last innings of madness by sustaining, fighting, defying and most importantly cutting the roots of PTI and PPP political parties who planned his political death. He should majorly focus on making public the flaws, charges and clauses against all other active political parties such as the PTI and PPP. He should exert his highest efforts to make other political leaders disqualified. If he performs this action it would lead all major parties to be in the same ring. So that, before the final ball declares him out he should unfold the method of madness game by creating a level playing field for upcoming democracy before the scheduled elections in 2018. Presenting both sides of the coin I could only sum it up in one phrase; it will be very shameful to do all this but is there any existence of the word ‘shame’ in the political dictionary?
By the way, boys and girls a man with full potential (Interior Minister) can have forward group against NS but this man will leave politics but never ditch him.