The deliberate confusion being sowed in our minds
Some of us in that exalted tribe called the commentariat are victims of a self-created confusion. We are finding it hard to distinguish between a coup d’etat spearheaded by 111 Brigade and a judicial process led by the Supreme Court.
The army has not moved against Nawaz Sharif. If anything, the army leadership had to put up with unprecedented flak for supposedly going soft on the Sharifs in the matter of the Dawn leaks. Nawaz Sharif is caught up in a judicial process which began not on any move initiated by the army or the ISI but on petitions moved by Imran Khan, the Jamaat-i-Islami and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.
The JIT currently investigating the financial shenanigans of Nawaz Sharif and family was set up not by General Headquarters but by a bench of the apex court. Even so, quarters close to or sympathetic to Nawaz Sharif have done their best to spread the impression that Nawaz Sharif is not caught up in a judicial process but is the victim of a political conspiracy. Whether mischievous or not, this is a nonsensical notion.
The army never invented the Panama leaks. We all know how those leaks came about. The army or the ISI did not concoct the Qatari letters. That was part of the Sharifian defence if not the entirety of that defence because beyond those letters the Sharif clan has been able to present not a single piece of paper or bank transaction to explain their ownership of the Mayfair flats.
The army or any military agency did not compel Nawaz Sharif and his sons to make contradictory statements on TV or in addresses to the nation. Those speeches are testimonials to the Sharifs’ own powers of imagination and invention.
If they now find themselves caught in this judicial process—of which the JIT is an integral part—and if they have been unable to provide answers that could satisfy, at a minimum, gullible souls let alone anyone else, whose fault is it?
Tax evasion, the hiding of assets and money laundering are offences not under the Army Act but the ordinary law of the land. The Sharifs are being questioned by an investigative forum set up under the directions of the SC. They are not arraigned before a military court. Pro-Sharif media drumbeaters are fudging this distinction, letting out broad hints about some kind of a grand conspiracy to get Nawaz Sharif. The latter himself said as much when he spoke of puppet games afoot.
Pakistan has already endured the consequences of one Sharif martyrdom after Musharraf’s ’99 coup. Nawaz Sharif was a hollow-sounding politician by then. The coup washed away his many failings and turned him overnight into a symbol of democracy. Pakistan cannot afford a second Sharif martyrdom. Apart from anything else it will test the limits of everyone’s patience.
If indeed we want to call the events unfolding on the national scene a conspiracy then it is a conspiracy falling from the heavens. When the Panama leaks were first heard of, no less a Sharif partisan than President Mamnoon Hussein felt constrained to say that this was a visitation from the skies and we would see many a knight caught up in it…words to that effect.
When Nawaz Sharif for his own partisan purposes was championing the cause of the deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry his standard pitch was that Pakistan needed an independent judiciary beyond anything else. With an independent judiciary in place Pakistan’s problems would be solved.
If his own words have come back to haunt him what are we to do? Nawaz Sharif needs to be reminded that what he is experiencing are the wages of an independent judiciary… a bench of the SC acting fearlessly and taking no dictation or pressure from any quarter. If only these were amenable judges Nawaz Sharif’s worries would be half over. He’s been used to friendly and obliging judges throughout his long years in politics and power. For the first time he’s facing something different and it’s proving too much for him and his family to handle.
Shouldn’t the law be allowed to take its course? And if the law in this instance is taking its course what should the rest of us do? Sharif supporters are furiously whispering that democracy is in danger. Why should that be so? Yusuf Raza Gilani as prime minister was sent home by the Supreme Court and democracy was not derailed. Why should it be derailed if something happens to Nawaz Sharif?
Who knows he comes clean out of this whole mess and is not disqualified? In that case let him become prime minister for the fourth time, or even the fifth, if people vote for him and the heavens so desire. But if on the charges springing out of the Panama leaks he incurs disqualification or something similar, why should the heavens fall? Will democracy be in mortal danger? It would be a sad day for Pakistan if democracy became synonymous with the safety and prosperity of one individual and one family.
Even if, for argument’s sake let us say, something happens to Nawaz Sharif, his party will still be there as will be its majority in Punjab and in the National Assembly. Let the party elect someone else to lead it. The PML-N should complete its term and elections should be held on time or when the next prime minister—that is, if the verdict is against Nawaz Sharif—chooses to call fresh elections. What’s wrong with this?
We should focus on the tangible and the immediate. The JIT has first to complete its investigation. It then has to submit its findings to the three member bench headed by My Lord Ejaz Afzal Khan. The bench will decide what to do in the light of the JIT’s findings. We should wait for this process to unfold. And whatever the end result may be we should all learn to live with it, without giving way to baseless and exaggerated fears about the system being rolled up and new-fangled ideas about a presidential system, etc, being set in motion.
Nawaz Sharif is a man in power facing serious charges arising from the Panama papers. He is not the system; he is not the embodiment of democracy; and certainly he is not the destiny or the hope of Pakistan. As we take a respite from this gripping political theatre over the Eid holidays and wait for the Panama verdict when the JIT is done with its work, let us bear these considerations in mind.