Former Prime Minister, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, addressing a press conference on 26th September after he had appeared before the accountability court, claimed that his disqualification was pre-determined and when the institution of justice was turned into a tool of seeking revenge it only damaged the credibility and sanctity of the judiciary itself. His observations and narrative on how the Panama case was pursued in complete departure from the set legal precedents, and all other steps that were taken to carry out the investigation process that ultimately compelled the bench to disqualify him reminds me of a famous couplet by Parveen Shakir: “Log Kehtey Hein key Us Ne Mujhey Chore Dia Baat Tow Such Hey Magar Baat Hey Ruswai Ki.” The English version of which is, People say he has abandoned me, it is true but ignominious.
He, being a former Prime Minister, must have valid grounds and information in regards to what transpired behind the scenes that led him to conclude that his disqualification was pre-determined. His claim is reinforced by our political history that proves beyond any iota of doubt that regime changes and removal of the elected Prime Ministers have invariably been orchestrated through conspiracies. Former Chief of the Army Staff, General (Retd) Aslam Baig in one of his articles during the sit-ins had unequivocally admitted this fact saying that the regime changes in Pakistan had happened through collaboration among four As, i.e., America, Army, Adliya and Allies, the opportunist politicians. I do subscribe to what he said, but I do not agree with blaming the institutions as a whole for the indiscretions and unconstitutional steps taken by some individuals belonging to those institutions at a particular time. Therefore, I would prefer to say that the regime changes were a sequel to conspiracies between Generals who betrayed their oaths to protect the constitution. In the process, they were aided by some unscrupulous political elements, encouraged by the USA and endorsed by the pliable judges, who themselves committed acts of treason by validating the military coups and by authorizing the military dictators to disfigure the constitution by making amendments in it that suited their objectives.
Military coups are staged by the highest military leadership and sometimes not all the Generals are taken into confidence as revealed by General ( Retd) Shahid Aziz regarding military take-over by General Musharraf. The Generals do not ask all the military ranks as to whether they should stage the military coup or not. So the logic demands that the responsibility should be fixed on those individuals who were responsible for betraying their oaths and the constitution instead of blaming the entire institution. Army as an institution is beyond reproach as it was a symbol of national strength and integration. Similarly, we cannot blame the judiciary as an institution of being in connivance with the Generals to implement the conspiracies for regime change or removal of the Prime Ministers.
Our history is replete with instances where some pliable judges have given decisions, which constitute a travesty of justice and have had a profound impact on the political landscape of the country. I am afraid by their indiscretions they not only invoked the curse of the people of Pakistan but also contributed to soil the reputation of the institution to which they belong.
Judiciary is the most sanctimonious institution, which helps in building the edifice of the state through the dispensation of justice that guarantees peace and progress in the society. No state and society can even conceive of development, peace, and prosperity without an impartial judiciary committed to dispensing justice strictly in conformity with the constitution, law and the internationally recognized principles of jurisprudence. One of the fundamental requirements of Justice is that it must not only be done but must be seen to be done. In Panama case, ostensibly, justice is not seen or perceived to have been done.
Eminent constitutionalists and lawyers have pointed out some legal infirmities and departures from legal precedents such as the inclusion of personnel of the agencies in the JIT, formation of the implementation bench and the monitoring Judge to supervise the references in the Accountability Court. Some have even taken exception to the basis on which Nawaz Sharif has been disqualified. Majority of them feel that the court had also violated the internationally recognized principle of jurisprudence that makes it obligatory on courts to exercise restraint.
Majority of the people are also critical of the SC decision and smell a rat. The decision has surely not added to the prestige and reputation of the concerned judges and the judiciary. Under the circumstances, one finds it hard to take exception to the remarks of Nawaz Sharif that when justice turns into revenge, it proves more damaging for the judiciary itself. Although five judges have given the decision, the people tend to blame the apex court as an institution for the perceived injustice. One thing encouraging in his discourse was that in spite of his belief that he had been victimized, he still expressed the hope that justice was not dead by saying “I fully believe in Almighty Allah and hope that justice is still alive somewhere.” Let us hope it is.
It is pertinent to mention that contrary to the claims of the political opponents and detractors of the PML (N) government and Nawaz Sharif, the decision by the SC to disqualify him has not had any adverse impact on the fortunes of the party and his credentials as an undisputed leader of the party, as is evident from the NA-120 results. It constitutes a great snub for those who billed the contest as Judiciary versus the PML (N). People believe in the narrative that Nawaz is trying to build for winning their support.
I am not a clairvoyant but what little knowledge I have about politics and public mood, I have no doubt that the PML (N) led by Nawaz Sharif remains a dominant political force in the country. Chances that PML(N) will win the franchise of the people in 2018 are far greater than that of its opponents who do not have much on their platter to convince the people about their credentials as an alternative to the PML (N). The PML (N), on the other hand, can rightly boast of orchestrating turn-around in the economy, taking decisive actions against the terrorists, bringing normalcy in Karachi, controlling insurgency in Balochistan, diluting the impact of the energy crisis and unrolling a mega-economic initiative like CPEC. Hopefully, by the next elections, the energy crisis will have been completely overcome.
Unfortunately, parliament, often considered the mother of all state institutions, has become the weakest link in the power equation. The politicians as a class will have to join hands to restore the prestige and ascendency of the parliament, failing which they would continue to be the victims of conspiracies like Nawaz Sharif and the country will be consigned to perennial instability.