Where Angels Fear to Tread

Spearhead Analysis – 07.08.2017

By Farrukh Karamat
Senior Research Coordinator, Spearhead Research

The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) issued its verdict and with the stroke of a pen Mr. Nawaz Sharif ceased to be the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. On the surface it appears that Mr. Sharif was disqualified not on the basis of the various allegations leveled against him by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), but on the basis of a legal technicality. He was not deemed to be ‘Sadiq and Ameen’ under Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution of Pakistan. The esteemed apex court as part of its judgment instructed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to institute corruption references against the Prime Minister and his family members, including Mr. Ishaq Dar. The question arises that if the terms Sadiq and Ameen were to be implemented in true letter and spirit how many in the Land of the Pure would actually qualify and meet the standards? We are still paying for the first sin of Adam and Eve, which got them banished from Heaven. After all most if not all have sinned at some point in their lives. Then why have a clause like 62 and 63 in the Constitution of the country, when clearly none can comply with the lofty standards. In a country where corruption is endemic and ingrained in the institutional framework; where truth is all but marginalized; and, where the voices of reason are silenced, we would be hard pressed to find true Sadiqs and Ameens. Yet, the dismissal based on Sadiq and Ameen appears to be the starting point of what is to come as the trial unfolds over the ensuing months.

It is a fact that people tend to cling to power like a dying man clings to life. In the ongoing Panamagate scandal the honorable course of action would have been for the Prime Minister to step down, pending the outcome of the investigation. Yet, what unfolded was a trail of lies, deceit and falsehoods beyond the wildest imagination of anyone. The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) Chairman when implicated in the case of alteration of official records refused to step down. The CEO of National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) is a British National without experience in the Banking sector but deemed qualified as he is a close friend of the Finance Minister. The Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) is a ‘trusted’ henchman and a bureaucrat and not a career economist. Even the current Finance Minister will be undergoing a NAB trial, but is continuing as the Finance Minister. The list of such appointments, of people who fall outside or are on the fringes of the Sadiq and Ameen ambit, continue to surface and yet there are no qualms about continuing in the positions of power even after being discovered and shamed, for power to them appears to be the end all.

When Baghdad was under siege by the mighty Mongols under Halaku Khan and as he was preparing to attack and annihilate the city, the local residents were embroiled in petty mundane arguments. Issues such as whether a crow was kosher? Or how many angels could pass through the eye of a needle? We appear to be at exactly the same point, engaged in petty immaterial matters, at the cost of national interest. Only a handful seem to understand the seriousness of the issues facing Pakistan at a national and international level, while the vast majority parties on for personal gain and merriment. The reputational damage to Pakistan through all this is immense and perhaps irreversible.

The verdict of the Supreme Court of Pakistan needs to be respected and followed in true letter and spirit. One can debate its merits and demerits, but it has to be accepted in totality. However, the ex-Prime Minister is adamant that he has done nothing wrong and continues to act as the Chairperson of the Party. There is no democracy within the party as the next interim Prime Minister was nominated by him, and he even stated that his brother would assume the Prime Ministership after 45 days. The latter decision may be changed as Mr. Shahbaz Sharif is being urged not to let go of the Punjab premiership. How can we expect democracy to flourish at a national level when it cannot be implemented within a party? Dynastic continuation appears to be more important in this case. Mr. Sharif is said to be out on the roads meeting with reveling mobs of admirers who are said to be kissing the very car he drives in and cheering him on. And he is being portrayed as the Prime Minister of the people and the man who would be King again. This despite a life-long ban by the Supreme Court of Pakistan – seems like a case of contempt of court. This by the same party that distributed sweets and expressed their unbridled joy on the decision of the apex court to constitute the JIT.

The current situation in Pakistan, reminds me of the famous funeral oration by Mark Anthony in the Great Shakespearian tragedy, Julius Caesar:

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

The evil that men do lives after them;

The good is oft interred with their bones;”

Anthony used rhetoric and genuine reminders to portray Caesar in such a positive light that the crowds were in the end enraged against the conspirators. Here we have a Government embroiled in scandals spawning from their own greed and mis-governance, and yet portraying themselves as “righteous and honourable”. Mark Anthony’s parting aside may very well prove to be ominous in the case of Pakistan: “Mischief, thou art afoot. Take thou what course thou wilt.”

We are witnessing how the decision is being contested and manipulated and being presented to suit the aims of certain quarters. Truth is being twisted and distorted and lies being repeated so oft that it starts to sound like the truth. As the witches in Macbeth said; “Fair is foul and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air”. There is apprehension and speculation that efforts are afoot to bring the country to a state of chaos and conflict, necessitating the dismissal of the government so that they could portray themselves as victims to gain sympathy votes in the coming elections. One hopes that better sense will prevail and that the Supreme Court verdict will be followed up with a swift and fair trial in the NAB to validate the Courts’ true reasons for the dismissal of the Prime Minister.

The issue is not just whether Mr.Sharif is Sadiq and Ameen, there are broader implications for the future leadership and the country. Where would we find people who adhere to such standards and who actually measure up to the Sadiq and Ameen scale. For truly, how many can stand up with their heads held high and confidently say:

  • We have never lied.
  • We have never evaded taxes.
  • We have never committed fraud.
  • We have never hurt another living creature.
  • We have never deceived another.
  • We have never committed conflict of interest.
  • We have never sinned.

….And the list goes on.

Such are the bounds of Sadiq and Ameen that none in the Land of the Pure would come up to the stringent standards. There were enough grounds to indict the Prime Minister, so why rely on a Clause inserted in the Constitution by a past dictator for malicious purposes. Did the creator of this clause conform to those standards? Or perhaps there was some urgency based on the findings of the JIT, which demanded immediate removal, rather than through a lengthy trial. For given his track record the ex-Prime Minister would not have stepped down voluntarily if a trial had been ordered without ordering his dismissal. When honour is absent perhaps, such decisions need to be enforced for the national good. Whatever, the reasons, this may have set a dangerous precedent and one that may be manipulated in future for malicious purposes. To be fair to the Judiciary it must be stated that they have to rely on laws that have been legislated and not revoked—the ‘sadiq and amin’ law is one such case.

It is unfortunate that after four years in power in his third stint as Prime Minister, Mr. Nawaz Sharif was unable to understand how to govern Pakistan. He continued on the path of confrontation and in the process destroyed himself. Perhaps it was his quest for undisputed autocratic power that became his undoing. There is a long list of reasons which could have been the basis of his dismissal, yet a measly unclaimed salary of Dhs.10,000 per month in his sons company unseated him in the end. An inglorious end to what could have been a lasting legacy.  The country now appears to be headed towards a phase of witch-hunts, wild accusations, and unsubstantiated personal slanders. The issue of the two Ayesha’s (Gulalei and Ahad) is a case in point. I am sure there are many more to come. At a time when the country needs direction, governance, and leadership, we are morphing into a power play of petty vendettas and personal ambitions. What a way to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan – it is fast becoming a place where even Angels fear to tread.

Yet in the midst of all this gloom and confusion there are rays of hope. The institution of the Judiciary and the Military are fully conscious of their duties within their respective spheres in the best interests of Pakistan. People are cutting through the shrill voices and debates in the media and focusing on the real issues facing the country. The country remains functional despite the attempts from within and without to create chaos. In fact, the entire country and its institutions are functioning except the political institution and even there the problem is only within one party and within that party with just a handful of people. People want credible people at the helm of political and institutional affairs and they want governance.