So much more on the line

Zaheer Bhatti
IN the wake of the Panama Leaks trail, one still cannot come to terms with why the Superior Court did not prevent holding court outside the Court by the politicians in opposing camps right in the Supreme Court premises, and not only the Media analysts but also some anchors and channels clearly taking sides and violating the norms of an unbiased media opining freely over a sub-judice case.
Also highly questionable is the fact that despite demands from various quarters no one invoked the judicial process nor did the Judiciary consider it fit to take suo motu notice over several hundred other names listed in the Panama Leaks besides the NRO availing 800 odd against whom cases were quashed during Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorial rule, giving credence to the impression that much more was being put on the line than targeting just one family. This was the time for the resurgent Judiciary in Pakistan to further stamp its authority leading to greater credibility with across-the-board accountability in country, but whether it let go this opportunity by design, default or expediency, only time will tell.
Regardless of the decision to disqualify and unseat Nawaz Sharif, the Superior Court is found faltering over consistency in juggling with the 3 or 5 judge verdict while the appellants having consumed their review plea have been hanging on to any and all technicalities to ward off the Criminal References required by the Supreme Court verdict to be filed by NAB in the Accountability Courts against the Sharif family besides pointing to the unprecedented nature of the Supreme Court appointing a Supreme Court judge from amongst the Adjudicating Panel to supervise the Ehtesab Court proceedings. The Adjudicating Panel of the Apex Court has rejected all review petitions from the Sharif’s besides ordering NAB to also file against closure of the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case which is billed to be the mother of all evils by the opposition.
While Counsel for the deposed Prime Minister questioned the conviction and life-ban over active politicking against his client for at best un-intended and not wilful negligence of declaring an ‘Aqama’, which was a punishment highly disproportionate to the purported crime leaving him no opportunity of appeal to justify a fair trial, he also alleged that in doing so the honourable Superior Court had acted as the complainant, the Prosecutor and the Trial Court by appointing a Joint Investigation Team. What impact all this will have on the outcome of the critical NA-120 by-election will be known by the end of the day today.
Notwithstanding arguments extended the Counsels for the deposed PM and his family members, the honourable Court consumed well over a year to determine that the case needed to be heard by the Trial Court, which has contributed to the unending state of uncertainty and imbalance in the national economic and security paradigm of the country. The Sharif’s on the other hand have themselves been a catalyst to this outcome by not squarely and promptly dispelling allegations against them by presenting solid evidence once they had been referred to the Superior Court; that is if they were indeed innocent. Even otherwise, they let go the opportunity to address these issues on the floor of the House by disregarding Parliament for whose supremacy they have all the time cried their voices hoarse, and have themselves been responsible for surrendering their authority to Judiciary. In the political context, what the opposition combined has achieved at best is getting Nawaz Sharif de-seated, but have been able to make no dent in the PML(N) Rule as it is still firmly in the saddle. It is also a cry in the wilderness for the opposition to seek his disqualification as a political entity altogether when the verdict has not outlawed his Party. Nothing can stop him from leading his Party without holding an office nor can one object to his Parliamentarians converging on him for advice and evolving strategies.
Right now, on the balance sheet, the opposition may well end up disappointed and disillusioned with Nawaz Sharif remaining current and perhaps in a better position to stake his Party’s claim to the next term than any other entity. The fact remains that despite lacking in prioritising national issues, PML(N) has much more to show than any of its adversaries who have only been fighting on others demerits but little to show for themselves in support of their claim to represent their constituents; its main adversary PTI wasting precious time in gunning only for the Sharif family rather than pressing for across-the-board accountability, while failing to organize his Party and cash on the opportunity to establish his credentials in KPK where he had been given the mandate; the PPP losing its grip in Punjab and hence its National hold, the MQM and ANP always remaining regional entities and ‘tonga’ Parties like PML(Q) not mentionable anymore.
The PML(N) adversaries who so far have only indulged in opposition for the sake of opposition and not so much on the score of their own performance, ought to have acted as the Government in waiting by bringing out inadequacies of the Treasury Benches in Pakistan’s Foreign Policy and failure to address public issues at home. As serious tenders and contenders they ought to have taken initiatives to build consensus of approach against external ingresses into Pakistan to show national solidarity. They have also not been able to use the Parliament to muster support for a no-confidence motion against the sitting Government to keep it on its toes even if not succeeding to bring it down.
It is unfortunate that despite the current political crisis requiring rapt attention of Parliament, its current session had to be called off fourth day in a row for lack of quorum for which the Chief Whip of the sitting Government needs to be whipped; so much for the seriousness of the Parliamentarians of the much touted Parliament.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.
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