A dispensation on its last legs
It has been said oft times before but let it be said for the last time: this is a stricken, wounded, helpless government, no longer capable of governing or exercising any worthwhile authority. It has been crippled by the Panama case and only the coup de grace which may be in the form of the Supreme Court verdict remains to be delivered.
Even disregarding everything else, what kind of a government are we left with which seems to be traumatized by its recalcitrant and angry interior minister? The way senior ministers are trying to bring him around it would seem that the government has nothing more pressing on its mind.
Nawaz Sharif and his cabinet are just going through the motions of appearing to be in command. Their authority has seeped away; the business of government—the civilian side of it, that is—is at a standstill and the army where it has to take any decision is doing so on its own. It is noteworthy that for some weeks now the prime minister and the army chief haven’t met to discuss anything.
The Panama case hangs like a sword over Nawaz Sharif’s head and as long as this situation lasts how can he talk to the army chief or the other service chiefs with a confident face? After the Panama allegations and especially after the JIT report with its utterly devastating revelations about the Sharif family’s virtually endless financial shenanigans can anyone in a position of authority in Pakistan take Nawaz Sharif seriously?
Respect comes not just from the office one holds but from other things—moral authority, personality, charisma (if you have it), etc. What kind of moral authority is left after the JIT revelations? Nawaz Sharif and his coterie and family are still clinging to straws and hoping that some miracle will get them out of this mess. Whether this is a forlorn hope or not, this much should be certain that Nawaz Sharif is no better than the emperor without his clothes. His authority in the real sense of the word is gone. Only the last rites remain.
Nawaz Sharif and family should be in a state of utter misery. They would have to be pretty thick-skinned not to feel the pain of the cuts been inflicted on them and which continue to come their way. There is not just the danger of being disqualified from office but the very real danger of facing criminal charges on various counts.
But the nation is also suffering because, as pointed out, the business of government is virtually at a standstill. It is in everyone’s interest that this state of limbo—for that is what it amounts to—soon ends. Although this does not mean that we start telling the Supreme Court what it should do. The court is the best judge of its business and it is up to it to deliver its verdict whenever it deems fit, or when it completes what due deliberation is required in this most important, nay seminal, of cases.
This is no ordinary case. It’s not simply about the corruption of the PM and his family. On it hinges the future direction of national politics. It has been a godsend, that’s for sure, falling from the skies…no one in Pakistan, no agency, being in a position to manufacture it. And if luck wasn’t on our side this case could have been forgotten or it could have died a natural death, like so many other things in our history. But Imran Khan and the media kept it alive and the Supreme Court, and various judges involved, exercised due diligence and this is the only reason that we’ve arrived where we are.
If Imran Khan hadn’t kept at it, if the media had lost interest, or if their lordships had been less conscientious it would have been the Sharifs’ triumph and the nation’s irredeemable loss. Thank God it hasn’t turned out that way. And thank God there is some hope now about the country’s future.
I mean look at the muck in our stables. It would have taken more than the labours of Hercules to clean them. But now with the curtains about to come down on this case there is a chance to make a fresh beginning and wield a wide broom against all kinds of high-level corruption.
Pakistan’s problem is that this kind of a cleansing has never happened before. Accountability is a word abused by generals and politicians alike but no real accountability has ever occurred here. On the contrary, this has been a paradise for all sorts of looters…the good and the great donning masks of piety, giving the nation roseate speeches and promising the moon and all the while involved in loot and plunder.
Some have gone about this business openly. Some have done it with greater stealth and cunning. The beauty of the Panama case and the resulting probing is that the most cunning in this domain have been uncovered. We all knew what they had been up to. We knew about London flats, Dar-assisted exploits of money-laundering and in a vague sort of way we knew about offshore accounts. But here, finally, by the grace of God were the telling details and when the JIT came back with attested certificates from the British Virgin Islands we suddenly were made aware that the impossible had happened.
The Sharifs are shouting conspiracy, conspiracy because they never expected, not in their wildest dreams, that the JIT in just 60 days would be able to retrieve damning documents from the United Arab Emirates and the Virgin Islands.
From rich experience we know that the Sharifs are the biggest deniers in our history. With a straight face they have denied the naked truth. They said they never signed any agreement with the Musharraf regime when they were going into exile. When Prince Muqrin had to fly to Islamabad and wave that agreement before media-persons, the Sharifs with the utmost calm said that the agreement was for five years, not ten, when before they were denying all existence of any agreement.
They’ve denied the Model Town killings.
They have denied receiving any money from the ISI for the 1990 elections. Indeed the prime minister’s written statement to the FIA on this subject deserves a Nobel or Booker Prize for brazenness and audacity. He said that he did not remember anything on this score, there being so many people to meet during an election campaign, but if such a transaction took place he was ready to return the money with interest. Try beating this.
So it was scarcely surprising that they were denying everything related to the Panama revelations. Addressing the nation on TV or speaking in the National Assembly, the honourable prime minister—as per wont and Sharif habit—denied everything. The JIT’s findings are backed by solid, documentary evidence, making them well nigh irrefutable. The Panama leaks the Sharifs could shrug off. They can’t do the same with the JIT report.
So it is only a matter of time. We have to be patient, remembering the prayer of Odysseus: “Patience, stout heart, thou hast endured far worse than this.”