Chale chalo keh woh manzil abhi nahi aayi


Chale chalo keh woh manzil abhi nahi aayi

Ayaz Amir

Yeh daag daag ujala, yeh shab gazida sahar
Woh intezar tha jis ka, yeh woh sahar to nahi

After reading the verdict in the Panama case the impression is hard to shake off that Faiz Sahib wrote these immortal lines in relation to April 20, not August 14. The majority verdict raises all the unanswered questions about the Sharif wealth stowed away in London and other choice destinations. There is also ample moralizing about accountability and the need for honesty in running the affairs of state. But the net effect is clear.

Nawaz Sharif faced the severest legal challenge in his long political career and he has been saved by a whisker. If only one judge had swung the other way it would have been all up for him. But he has been bailed out. Cutting through all the legal arguments, this is the net effect of the verdict.

He hasn’t been exonerated, he’s been given no clean chit but the sword of disqualification hasn’t fallen on him as it so easily could have. And in Pakistan that is what counts…not morality, not the high moral ground, not unblemished virtue. He has survived in office and even though all the charges levelled against him stand as they stood before, to his diehard supporters none of that matters and they are proclaiming the verdict as an unqualified victory as if their leader has been bathed in holy water.

His lordship who said that the Panama verdict when it came would be remembered for a hundred years was absolutely correct. It is a masterpiece of subtlety whichever way one looks at it. All the five judges agree that the questions about the prime minister’s wealth, or that of his family, have not been answered. All of them agree that no money trail was provided, no bank details were furnished. None of the five lordships puts any credence by the two letters of his royal highness the prince of Qatar. But, remarkably, two judges—the senior-most—arrive at one conclusion, and the remaining three arrive at a different destination.

And so the majority opinion—that of the three judges— holds that this affair calls for further probing and investigation. For which purpose they have decreed the setting up of a Joint Investigation Team which is required to complete its findings and submit its report within 60 days. This is the best part of the verdict for it rests on the hope that the wall of obfuscation and evasions which their lordships with all the authority at their command could not penetrate, the much lowlier and far less powerful JIT will successfully crack.

The people of Pakistan may not have read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire or Mommsen’s History of Rome but they are familiar with the history of their own institutions. They know it well and no one needs to educate them on this score that no commission, tribunal or investigating body in the entire history of Pakistan—from the country’s birth up to now—has ever led to any worthwhile result or consequence. They have only come in handy to divert attention from an issue or to give that issue a decent and permanent burial.

There isn’t space in this column to mention all the commissions and investigations that have led to nothing. But to take a page from recent history, does anyone know what has become of the report of the one-man judicial commission constituted to look into the Model Town killings? What has become of the JIT set up to investigate the same happening?

These killings took place not in some remote jungle but in the heart of Lahore. We know the toll: 14 dead including two women and scores injured as a result of police firing. Who ordered the police to go and remove the barriers from Tahir-ul-Qadri’s house, which is what led to the killings? The judicial commission’s report has not been allowed to see the light of day. The JIT’s proceedings are shrouded in mystery.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry held that the 1990 elections, after which Nawaz Sharif became prime minister for the first time, were rigged. He also held that the distribution of money by the ISI to a favoured list of candidates belonging to Nawaz Sharif’s party—in the so-called Asghar Khan case, so named because the aging Air Marshal had petitioned the Supreme Court in this matter—should be investigated and the guilty should face appropriate punishment.

Pursuant to this direction Nawaz Sharif was also investigated by a team comprising officials from the Federal Investigation Agency. The answer he submitted makes for interesting reading. In it he says that one comes across so many people in an election campaign that he doesn’t really remember if someone purporting to come from the ISI had met him and handed him a sum of money. But if anything of the sort did happen he was ready to return the stated amount with interest. End of matter.

If this plea was adopted by every robber and thief in the land there would be no one in prison. They would all return “with interest” the money they were accused of robbing and that would be the end of the matter.

There is a several feet long statement hand-written by Ishaq Dar confessing to a devious, convoluted scheme of money-laundering on behalf of Nawaz Sharif. With the change in the political climate—this after the PPP came to power in the centre and the PML-N in Punjab—the prosecuting agencies felt themselves under no obligation to pursue the trail pinpointed by Dar. And Dar, taking advantage of this situation, approached the Lahore High Court and had his statement declared of no legal consequence on the grounds that it had been extracted under duress.

This is the condition of justice in our country. For all the talk of corruption in the media are the powerful and the well-connected ever brought to account because of corruption? Accountability is a word we love to bandy about but we know how much of accountability there is in our Islamic Republic. Now we are to believe that where all other commissions and investigations in our history have led to nothing the Joint Investigation Team to be set up following the Panama verdict will have a different outcome and will produce miracles.

The occasion furnished by the Panama hearings was historic. The verdict, with just a slight shift in the wind, could have been historic. The political landscape could have been shaken…a new dynamic could have been set in motion. Cynicism would have been pushed back and people’s faith in institutions would have been reborn. And perhaps with Wordsworth we could have said, “Bliss was it in that morn to be alive…” But it was not to be. Audacity did not prevail; prudence and caution won the day.

Therefore Faiz must have the last word:
Abhi garaani-e-shab main kami nahi aayi
Najaat-e-deeda-o-dil ki ghari nahi aayi
Chale chalo ke who manzil abhi nahi aayi

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