In a popular market in Lahore, a pushcart fruit seller curiously posed a question to one of his customers who was known to be a female PTI activist. What decision would the JIT pass in the Panama case? The buyer replied that whatsoever the decision of the JIT, one thing was for sure, that PTI had achieved their targets by way of ‘hanging’ the Sharif family in the corridors of investigation. “Note down somewhere on your crude invoice papers that I said that whatever comes out the decision of the JIT or the Court this time, what PTI is going to do is a conflict which may turn into a collapse anytime.”
An individual in the street would find the country in the grip of continually rising conflict. Although a usual in judicial dispensations, the difference of opinion amongst the judges infected our society from the 20 April ‘historical’ judgment passed by the Honourable Apex court. Two Honourable judges declared the Premier as disqualified being not ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Ameen’ whereas the other three found sharp conflicts in his narratives and recommended further investigation by way of JIT.
True that an aftershock was resolved by the Apex court when certain names suggested for the JIT were dropped and replaced by others, but respondents raised a finger of conflict upon two of them subsequently who were allowed to proceed in the matter.
The scope and limits of the JIT may assume another potential conflict as there seem to be certain ambiguities found in the minds of political stakeholders, defendants, legal experts, journalists and perhaps even in the minds of members of the JIT themselves. Although there may be some ambiguity in the order passed by the Apex court but the working and conduct of the JIT members with the leak pictures of Mr Hussain Nawaz and alleged tampering and hindering the course of investigation lays certain queries to that effect.
Of them, the most significant question which arises from the situation and may be incidental is as to whether the JIT has been conferred with the powers of declaring the gentlemen guilty, not guilty or guilty but not proven? A segment of legal experts interprets that the JIT is empowered to declare in the final report ordered by the Apex court the respondents guilty or not guilty as its final findings. Whereas another segment construes that JIT is authorised merely ‘to collect evidence’ which otherwise is legally defined as ‘investigation’ within the ambit of questions confined by the Apex court itself. Thus, it derives sufficient meaning from the bare reading of the judgment to the effect that majority of the Honourable judges of the bench directed the JIT to merely collect evidence connected with the questions raised by the Apex court and place the material so collected before the court without any colour and prejudice to the merits of the case rest leaving it upon the sole discretion of the implementation bench to pass a final verdict of guilty, not guilty or not proven, whatsoever.
The opposition member, Sheikh Rasheed would see Adiala Jail as an ultimate abode for the Sharif family whereas the proponents of Sharif family like Nihaal Hashmi and Khawaja Saad Rafique among others through their narratives and press conferences would ‘intimidate’ and question the very authencity not only of the JIT but also of the court. The former while ‘folding’ his hands would ultimately beg to request one of the Honourable judges not to label them as ‘Don’, Mafia or a ‘Godfather.’
PTI are showing a harsh body language, perhaps, out of likely frustration in case any much expected or ‘complete justice’ is not accorded to them by the JIT or the court whereas Shehbaz Sharif and Mariam Nawaz would contend that it is not their ‘corruption but business’ that is being investigated and that the real verdict would be passed on the ‘heavens.’
Whatever be the findings of JIT and consequent verdict of the Implementation Bench, one thing which goes without saying is that the conflict seems to be written on the wall. PTI including its aforesaid ‘lady buyer activist on the fruit pushcart’ intends to vigorously agitate the matter if no ‘complete justice’ is done, any benefit of doubt is given to the respondents or law of necessity once again comes in play to rescue the political system for its sustainability. On the other hand, the Sharif family and its proponents are showing stiff gestures to agitate the matter by resorting to the streets to counter the situation politically in case the verdict is passed against them.
The environment of conflict handsomely goes in favour of PTI but at length may not help the PMLN. In the case of PTI, it may be productive but in case of PMLN it may be counter-productive as it may ultimately lead to a final collapse which means collapse of the PMLN, the ultimate goal of PTI. Some other ‘veteran leaders’ of opposition from PPP are seen to have hinted that the verdict would be in favour of PMLN by all means, no matters it is passed in favour or against it as it may sufficiently claim ‘political martyrdom’ in the next elections as ever claimed by them in similar situations. However, a very thin line remains for all the parties in general and the PMLN in particular in the next elections, proceeding quickly to act sensibly while opting for the available options of conflict or collapse. Similarly, it is nothing short of politico-judicial trail of the judiciary itself.
n The writer is a socio-political analyst.