The controversy that surrounded the SC decision in Panama case disqualifying the former Prime Minister was not without cogent reasons which indicated and reinforced the impression that it was meant to target the Sharif Family and Nawaz Sharif. The circumstances surrounding the filing of the case in the SC and the unusual developments that took place during the hearing of the case and the investigations held by the controversial JIT manifestly suggested that something was unusual about the whole affair.
If there was any doubt about that impression it has now been removed with the decision by NAB to hold an inquiry into the companies owned by 435 Pakistanis in the tax havens of Panama and British Virgin Islands. Honestly speaking the Panama case did not fall within the purview of the Supreme Court in the first instance in the presence of other constitutional and legal institutions created through the acts of the parliament to deal with such cases like FIA, FBR and NAB. Assuming that the money taken out of the country to establish off-shore companies was illegal and accumulated through tax evasion, the actions of the concerned individuals were clearly criminal in nature and fell under the jurisdiction of the foregoing institutions for investigations and legal actions against those found to have indulged in illegal practices to establish those companies.
And if the SC thought that it could try the case by invoking its jurisdiction under article 184(3) to accept and try it then why did it only confine itself to trying only Nawaz Sharif and his family and leaving the rest to be probed by NAB and other state agencies established for the purpose?. Another very pertinent point alluded to by many legal and constitutional experts is that article 184(3) could be invoked by the SC only in cases where violation of fundamental rights was involved and not in criminal acts committed by certain individuals.
The revelation by Imran Khan in an interview with a Private channel after the SC verdict that he was asked by Justice Khosa and the then CJ on telephone to bring the case to them for adjudication also reinforced the feelings regarding the witch-hunt syndrome. Astonishingly the registrar of the SC only issued a rebuttal of what Imran Khan had said and closed the issue. It was something very serious. What Imran had revealed and in view of the rebuttal issued by the SC there were two possibilities. Either Imran Khan was telling a lie or the Judges of the SC were trying to conceal the facts. In either case it warranted a thorough probe into the affair and if as a result of the inquiry thus held Imran was found lying then he should have been proceeded against under the relevant law for maligning and soiling the reputation of the judges. And if Imran was found telling the truth then a reference against those judges should have been sent to the Supreme Judicial Council. But nothing of the sort happened and the SC kept a mysterious silence on the issue, further precipitating the steak of suspicion.
The disqualification or otherwise of the members of the parliament under article 62 and 63 falls within the jurisdiction of the ECP. Only the ECP could deal with the cases where a question regarding disqualification of a member of the parliament arises, in accordance with the procedures laid down under the relevant laws. The question as to why the SC chose to take this case of political nature by undermining the jurisdiction of the other state institutions and the ECP also remains to be answered.
The decision ultimately announced was also not a marvel of jurisprudence in the eyes of the constitutional and legal experts who felt that it had not added to the prestige of the apex court. The court did not disqualify Nawaz Sharif on the basis of the prayers and reasons given by the petitioners in their petitions seeking his removal but found a reason of its own to disqualify him. All the foregoing factors aggravated the impression that the case was all the way a witch-hunt against Nawaz Sharif.
The reaction by the PML (N) and Nawaz Sharif over the decision of the SC was therefore not misplaced. Though in deference to SC the verdict was immediately implemented but Nawaz Sharif and party were very much within their constitutional and legal right to criticize the decision for its infirmities.
Regrettably in the decision in the disqualification cases of Imran Khan and Jahangir Tareen, the SC did not follow the standard and criteria set by itself in the Panama case. In spite of the irrefutable similarities in both the cases the decisions are astonishingly different from each other. Imran admitted that he had availed the amnesty to whiten his black money but in spite of that he was declared ‘ sadiq and ameen ’. The court held that he had not derived any financial benefit by not mentioning his asset whereas Nawaz Sharif was denied the benefit of the same reasoning. Nawaz Sharif also had not derived any financial benefit nor escaped any liability by not mentioning the salary that he never drew. One does not have to be a constitutional expert to notice the dichotomy. It is quite visible and any person endowed with common sense can see through it.
It is probably due to the double standards exhibited by the SC in this case that it has also come under severe criticism by the constitutional and legal experts and political analysts like the verdict in Panama case. Even the former CJ Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry could not resist the temptation to remark that both the cases were similar but Imran had been given relief while Nawaz Sharif was denied the same.
In delivering the decisions in both cases the SC unfortunately put aside all the internationally recognised principles of jurisprudence, particularly the principle of restraint without realising the consequences of the decisions. The disqualification of Nawaz Sharif has surely done a lot of harm to the country economically and politically by creating an ambience of uncertainty. The country has already suffered tremendously due to wrong decisions of the apex court judges legitimising martial laws and allowing the dictators to decimate the constitution through amendments of their own choice.
Judiciary undoubtedly is the most sanctimonious institution of the state and it is incumbent upon the judges of the apex court to uphold that sanctity through their decisions delivered strictly in accordance with the constitution and laws of the country rather than relying on subjective factors and considerations. Double standards practiced by the Judiciary lower its prestige. Therefore the Baba needs to shun activism and playing to the gallery in its own as well as the larger interest of the country.