Selective accountability and witch-hunting have almost become an integral part of our political culture. This phenomenon has repeatedly been employed to settle score with the political opponents, malign them for extracting political mileage and distorting their image in the eyes of the masses. Panama Leaks provide an opportunity to the opponents of the PML-N government and those who believe in burning witches with relish to malign and embarrass the Prime Minister and his family supported by the irresponsible behaviour of a section of the media which also thrives on scandal-mongering.

The most interesting aspect of the flak directed at Prime Minister and his family members is, that notwithstanding the fact that a number of judges, media magnates and political families who have much bigger off-shore commercial interests, only the Sharif family is being targeted. The entire campaign has been built on the premise of two assumptions i.e. having off-shore companies is essentially meant to conceal the ill-gotten money or to whiten the black money and the investments made by the members of the Sharif family also had something sinister about them. That indeed is tantamount to jumping to the conclusions of one’s own liking without any solid evidence to support them.

That International Consortium of Investigative Journalists who are the architect of the Panama Leaks, while making their revelations have said, “There are also legal means to send money abroad and we do not suggest that all this was done unlawfully or by illegal means.” In view of the fact that even the compilers of the report have not arrived at a conclusive evidence as to the illegality of the revelations made by them and admitted the fact that not all of it could have been done in an illegal manner, the rattling noise being made by political opponents of the government and media, loses its credibility and starts smacking of the traditional trademark of the witch-hunting.

Hussain Nawaz, the son of the Prime Minister has unhesitatingly acknowledged owning off-shore companies and also explained how he got the required money for making those investments. His arguments and contentions sounded quite credible in view of the circumstances in which the members of the family had to leave the country and the sources of money that were invested in his business interests abroad. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in view of the momentum-gathering vilification campaign also felt the need to personally explain to the nation about the business empire of the family and how it had been targeted by the hostile governments since 1970s. It was not a story of ‘rags to riches’ after his coming into politics but the other way round. The family already had a fortune of billons before the Sharifs entered into politics in the seventies. I, as an independent observer who has seen all the dramas unfolding on the political landscape of the country since early seventies, irrespective of the crass politics of nineties, honestly feel that the Sharif family has not been treated fairly. And when the Prime Minister smells a rat behind the tirade against the Sharif family, it cannot be dismissed lightly.

PPP which is in the forefront of the move against Sharif family, has a score to settle with the government over the arrest of Dr. Asim and the pressure that it feels in the backdrop of actions of Rangers in Karachi that have unraveled involvement of some of the party stalwarts in mega-corruption scandals. Jumping of the PTI on the bandwagon of anti-government campaigners is also understandable in view of the fact after suffering reversals over its obsession with the rigging mantra, it was also struggling to find relevance to the national political landscape. Panama revelations provide it the required opportunity to reinforce the anti-government move.

Some recent developments on the political horizon and a sustained anti-government campaign on electronic channels, avowedly hostile to the government that focused on ferreting out scandalous stories also formed ominous premonitions for the things to come. What a pity that the political parties who never tire of crying hoarse from every convenient roof-top to announce and reiterate their democratic credentials, act in a manner inimical to strengthening of the democratic culture in the country. Instead of focusing on issues pertaining to the national challenges and the crusade against terrorism they are concentrating on weakening the democratic process by raising issues that have no relevance to the obtaining situation in the country. The masses have been fed on the non-sense of bringing back the wealth stashed away in the foreign lands, for too long.

One is amazed to see the audacity of these political parties in using the same rotten clichés, notwithstanding the fact that when they were in power they never made any serious attempt to implement, on which they have been befooling the masses. Not even the military regimes could accomplish this task because unfortunately our political and military rulers invariably have lot of skeletons in their cupboards. How could they do something that went against their own vested interests. I heard a politician who is very popular with the electronic channels and can best be compared with a ‘town crier’ and who has thrived under the shadow of military regimes, suggesting ruthless accountability by the military notwithstanding the fact that the military dictators were more responsible than the politicians in promoting culture of corruption to prolong their rules and the mess that the country is stuck into, was also created by those self-styled saviours. The answer to our woes lies in more and more democracy through an evolutionary process of reforms to plug the avenues of corruption and giving good governance to the masses. It has to be an inclusive effort rather than pulling in opposite directions for narrow political gains.

For that to happen, the political parties will have to abandon their traditional hypocrisy. The Prime Minister has announced the formation of a judicial commission to set the record right for once and all. Though not much has been revealed at the moment about construction of the commission and its terms of reference but it is hoped it would be given the responsibility to probe into all the cases of Pakistani citizens revealed in the Panama Leaks including some stalwarts of PPP. The political parties must cooperate with the government in this effort to unearth the truth about the whole affair if they really mean what they are professing. But it seems that they are not in a mood to do so as is evident from their rejection of the proposed commission. Senator Aitzaz Ahsan of PPP told a private TV channel that an independent forensic audit was needed to probe the matter. One wonders why this idea did not come to his mind or the big-wigs of PPP when the issue of the alleged money stashed away in the Swiss banks by Asif Ali Zardari was being heard in the Supreme Court and the party sacrificed two Prime Ministers but did not write to the Swiss authorities for reopening the cases on the instructions of the court?.