The decision of the apex court to form a judicial commission to probe Panama Leaks after consensus of all the parties involved has undoubtedly defused what looked like an explosive situation in view of the PTI decision to lockdown Islamabad and the steps that the government had to take to establish its writ. Consequently, the withdrawal of the call for lockdown of Islamabad by Imran Khan has come as welcome relief to the people of Pakistan, particularly the residents of Islamabad who were extremely worried about the prospects of Islamabad becoming a battlefield between the supporters of PTI and the law enforcement agencies, like the sit-ins during 2014.
The SC has given two days to PTI and the government to submit their formulations on the issue as well as their ToRs for the Judicial Commission preferably on which both parties agree or submit their separate TORs in which case the Court would finalize the TORs on its own. Till such time the TORs are finalised, it is hard to say what the scope of the probe will be. But one thing is certain, that the issue would surely be resolved as asserted by the bench hearing the petitions.
The government has expressed its unqualified faith in the SC and the words of the Prime Minister can be taken at face-value without any reservation in view of his personal track record and the faith reposed in the judiciary by his government, like in the judicial commission that probed the allegations of rigging. But one cannot be sure about Imran Khan who accepts only those verdicts which are in his favour. Before the establishment of the judicial commission, his party, in a written agreement with the government, had given the commitment that if the findings of the commission did not testify systematic rigging, PTI would accept the verdict and withdraw its rigging claims. But when the verdict came, he expressed his reservations and continued with his rigging mantra in complete disregard to the agreement, showing disdain for the judiciary. He even tried to ridicule the judge of the Islamabad High court who restrained PTI from locking down Islamabad and only permitted PTI to hold the rally at a designated place.
It is pertinent to mention that the government had readily agreed to the formation of the judicial commission on Panama Leaks in response to the demands of PTI and other opposition parties. It wrote to CJ on April 22, for the same and also enclosed ToRs for the proposed commission. However, the CJ responding to the request observed that the commission formed under the existing law would result in the constitution of a toothless body which will serve no useful purpose, due to its limited scope. In other words, it asked for new legislation on the subject as well as demanded a list of all the individuals, groups, families and companies with relevant particulars against whom the purported inquiry was to be held. It also felt that the ToRs sent by the government were ‘wide and open’ and it could take years for the commission to conclude the proceedings.
But unfortunately neither the government nor the opposition parties could evolve a consensus on ToRs nor the required legislation for the formation of the commission as desired by the SC could be enacted despite several huddles between the government and the opposition parties, because the opposition parties, particularly PTI, insisted on the accountability of the Prime Minister and his family first. Whereas the government wanted probe against all those nominated in the Panama Leaks and also widening of the scope of inquiry to include those who got their loans written off and were involved in any kind of corruption through public office. The draft of the legislation that the government presented in the parliament was also vehemently opposed by the opposition.
Political analysts believe that the stalemate was mainly attributable to the intransigence of the opposition and their visible move aimed at orchestrating a witch-hunt rather than across the board accountability. There is also a widely believed view that PTI actually never wanted a probe into Panama Leaks and was only using it as a ‘red herring’ to destabilise the government, after the failure of its earlier attempt through sit-ins.
Many believe that the duo of Imran Khan and Qadri staged the sit-in as a result of a conspiracy which also had external links. Former COAS General Aslam Baig in his article during the sit-ins, did allude to the conspiracy which according to him failed because General Raheel saw through it and thwarted it. Commenting on the recent campaign against the government by Imran Khan on the basis of Panama Leaks, General Baig in an article published in a national daily, likened it to the PNA movement of 1977, in which Imran Khan was playing a role like Asghar Khan during that movement. He however clearly rejected the notion of Imran enjoying the backing of the establishment. Asma Jahangir, reportedly, has said that Imran Khan was on assignment of some hidden hands. She said that Imran was waging war against democracy and not doing politics.
These observations and comments on Imran’s brand of politics and his motives cannot be dismissed lightly in view of what he has been doing, particularly the attack on PTV headquarters and the parliament by PTI and PAT workers, which he and Qadri declared as their victory. His open threats to undermine the writ of the state and government by shutting down Islamabad in itself were enough to unravel his hidden agenda. There is a difference between democracy and the politics of violence and Imran needs to understand that difference. In a democracy, national issues are resolved in the parliament and through internationally accepted norms of democracy. Politics of disruption and violence has no place in a democracy as it invariably leads to chaos and even derailment of the system itself as often happens in third world countries like Pakistan.
The failure of both of Imran’s attempts to destabilise the government has at least proved those wrong who believed that his actions enjoyed the nod of the establishment. Imran also needs to learn from his mistakes, though he has shown no signs of remorse or a knack for revisiting his political creed. The era of becoming Prime Minister through the backdoor is a by-gone story. In the emerging scenario, he will have to win the franchise of the people through the ballot. He is better advised to focus on real politics instead of acting as a pawn on the chessboard of anti-democratic forces. He must learn to respect state institutions, particularly the parliament which is the mother of all state institutions and the only forum through which systemic reforms can be introduced with the collective will and wisdom of the parties represented in it. He has wasted a good three years of his parliamentary career by relying on agitational politics rather than making his contribution to the process of reforms.