The judgment suggests that both parties — accused and petitioners — failed to prove their respective cases. But still it is no less than an indictment of the prime minister
On April 20, Supreme Court of Pakistan handed down a landmark judgment on the Panama Papers case in which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and members of his family were the primary suspects. It was indeed a victory for justice. Only time will tell if this was an epic or a pyrrhic victory.
I am a humble student of law. While my knowledge of laws is extremely modest, my understanding of legal principles is moderately better. Let me express my views on the judgment based on this understanding.
The judgment suggests that both parties — accused and petitioners — failed to prove their respective cases. But the following statement is no less than an indictment of the prime minister, “there was sufficient prima facie evidence to conclude that the PM and his two sons may be guilty and, therefore, a joint investigation team should compile conclusive evidence of guilt or innocence.”
That is certainly a landmark in our judicial history.
Our Constitution has some absolutely amazing clauses, courtesy General Ziaul Haq. Articles 62 and 63 are among such clauses. These clauses can lead to disqualification of a parliamentarian found to be not of “good” character or “known to have violated Islamic injunctions”. Those not “sagacious, righteous, sadiq or ameen” can also face the wrath of these clauses.
On paper, the lack of such an upright character makes an individual ‘undesirable’ to hold public office. The catch, however, is in how it’s decided if someone is or isn’t righteous, sadiq, ameen, and of good character.
Nevertheless, these clauses are a part of our Constitution and, unsurprisingly, two of the five judges on the SC bench referred to these clauses to express the view, in their dissenting note, that the PM deserved to be disqualified after having been caught lying. Personally, I believe such a precedent will disqualify every single politician in the country — though, others have not yet been caught and accused as the PM has been. But the PM won’t do the decent thing, and resign.
I must admit I was also amazed by the response of Asif Ali Zardari who, I am ashamed to admit, is a former president of my benighted country. His response suggested that he has forgotten that his party has the unique distinction of having two sitting PMs disqualified over corruption in less than a year’s span. Admittedly, though, this had happened in an era better known as ‘judicial dictatorship’ of the infamous Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry.
However, it is possible to occasionally hear pearls of wisdom even from Mr. Zardari. Whether out of pique or otherwise, he was heard saying that, in effect, if Nawaz Sharif is unfit to be a PM, “so is Imran Khan”. This is one assertion of Mr Zardari that I find myself in instant and unqualified agreement with. I repeat myself when I express my regret that, in his politicking, Imran has lost the sole aspect of his character which everyone, including myself, had respected: his honesty.
If someone were to approach the SC to seek Imran’s disqualification for lying in public, it is likely that the SC will be able to rule on it far quickly than it has in the PM’s case. Poor Imran’s long and arduous journey on the path of ‘politics by dharna’ has been a rather luckless one. He does deserve a break; if only out of pity. After all, no ‘third umpire’ has yet come to his rescue. Even after all doors (and windows) leading to the third umpire seem have closed, Imran has not lost hope.
Before the SC had announced the judgment, Imran was seen alternating between refusing to accept the yet unannounced decision and expressing unqualified confidence in the SC. He also ventured to knock at the gates of the third umpire, perhaps, hoping that a change of guard may have brought him luck. He returned with a rather sheepish admission or “the good news” that the new umpire was also a democrat.
When Malala was attacked, Imran could not bring himself to refer to the incident as an act of terrorism or refer to the perpetrators as terrorists. Nevertheless, he was the first politician to condole with Mashal Khan’s family following his brutal murder at Mardan University campus. Perhaps this time he had no fear for his personal safety.
Even if it may not be justified, I suppose his glee and his party’s celebration over Panama judgment is understandable. Still, a low-profile celebration may have been more dignified. I mentioned earlier that the victory in the form of the Panama judgment may be pyrrhic.
Let me repeat unequivocally, I will not vote for any of our political parties. But if I am asked to name the one which may do least damage to my country, to my utter and shameful regret, it will still be the PML-N. If Maryam Nawaz is prematurely forced into ‘hereditary’ leadership — and our political system is based on hereditary rights rather than merit — and I fear that she will be. Will it be an improvement? One can but hope.