Verdict on Panama Papers case soon


Mohammad Jamil
AFTER receiving JIT report, three-member bench of the Supreme Court provided another opportunity to the Sharif family to come up with its evidence to prove the money trail. After listening to the respondents and petitioners, the honourable bench reserved the judgment, which is expected any time this week. The bench has lauded the efforts of the JIT for completion of the work assigned to it. The Prime Minister and his family members’ lawyers had raised objections against the JIT’s manner of the probe and cast aspersions on its members. The honourable bench had time and again said that it would give its verdict not on the basis of the recommendations given in the JIT’s report but on the basis of law and the constitution. However, the bench would examine the findings of the report and decide about the fate of the Prime Minister and his family members.
After the formation of the JIT, leaders of the PML-N were all praise for the JIT, but when Prime Minister’s family members had to answer the questions framed by the bench, they were irritated as they could not produce the required documents to the satisfaction of the JIT. On the other hand, opposition parties had opposed the formation of JIT on the grounds that all the institutions are under the Prime Minister; hence honest and transparent probe is not possible. Of course, history bears testimony to the fact that sitting governments in the past had used their influence to manipulate the investigations. It was against this backdrop that opposition leaders had expressed apprehensions that this time around also the government would do the same. Anyhow, after the probe by the JIT started and put hard questions to the Prime Minister and its family members, opposition leaders started expressing confidence in the JIT.
It is to be seen that in the event the bench decides to send the cases to the FIA, how it would ensure that unbiased and transparent investigation takes place. It has to be mentioned that on October 19, 2012, Supreme Court of Pakistan had handed down a verdict of the century in the famous Asghar Khan case. An epoch-making ruling it was in every manner, and it was expected that fully eventful it would become by carrying it to its logical conclusion in line with the roadmap the apex court had laid down in its order for execution; but that was not to be due to the laxity shown by the administration. In the past, civilian dictatorship, Bonapartism and praetorian political adventurism legitimised by the court and politicians, who joined the bandwagon, have indeed been the bane of this nation ever since its inception, which should be put paid now for good.
Air Marshal Asghar Khan (Retd), the petitioner in the case, had alleged that the country’s premier intelligence agency, ISI, had distributed Rs 140 million among politicians in the 1990 elections to form the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) and prevent Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Benazir Bhutto from winning the polls. On November 20, 2012, former Army Chief General Aslam Beg (Retd) had filed a review petition against the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Asghar Khan case praying that it should be declared as void. The review petition filed by Barrister Syed Ali Zafar on behalf of the former army chief had stated that Aslam Beg was not involved in the process of distribution of cash amongst politicians, and that the orders of the president were directly implemented upon by former ISI chief Asad Durrani. Of course, today military has proved through its actions that it has no favorites, and it would go by the book.
Anyhow, the complexities of the case were hindering the process to bring it to the logical conclusion. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is also among the alleged recipients of the money, but he vehemently refuted the allegation. Of course, the Constitution forbids military not to meddle in politics and so does the law. But it is equally important that the politicians too should not become part of their political engineering works. Imagine for a moment, would there have been an IJI had politicians not fallen to the bait of the then president or those engaged in the cobbling up of this entity to influence the 1990 election against the PPP? Indisputably, it would have not been. Nobody put guns to their heads and bullied them into this adventurist contrivance of the then president or establishment. Some politicians were out there to hop on to the IJI bandwagon willingly and volitionally, as was the case in the past.
If indeed a politician is so weak-willed as to easily succumb to any coercive pressures, he verily is not fit to be a leader. And if he gets tempted or enticed by the allurements of pelf and power, he is bereft of even the probity and integrity that are the essentials of a true leader. But if our chequered history is replete with Bonapartist and praetorial adventurisms, isn’t it blemished with the ignoble falls of politicians and their lust power as well? How often they joined hands with the incoming military rulers to give a civilian face to their regimes? They had celebrated joyously when their political adversaries’ governments were sacked by the authoritative presidents. Even now it is not uncommon to hear the taunts, as to why are they (military) sitting idly by, while the country is going to the dogs?
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.

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