NationalVolume 13 Issue # 02

Post-Panama scenario in Pakistan

Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister, is trying every tactic to hold his political power firmly which , ironically and tragically, is slipping rapidly from his hands after the apex court’s Panama verdict. Being a “godfather”, he is not willing to fully abide by the rules and laws of the country. He and his family have not appeared before the NAB on last Saturday and Sunday. He is challenging the apex court’s verdict and severely criticising the five honourable judges in public. He is labelling the judgement as a conspiracy involving the Supreme Court and the army to remove him. During the GT road march, he has told his supporters again and again that his ouster was “a grave injustice done to those who elected him as the prime minister”. He repeatedly said: “how could five non-elected judged remove an elected prime minister and that his removal was the rejection of the elected National Assembly that represented the collective will of the people”. He also instigated the followers by saying that “Pakistan is in need of a revolution and they should be ready for his call to bring about the revolution”.
Nawaz Sharif has raised many intriguing questions. He needs a new constitution to ensure and prolong his and his family’s rule. He says the ‘basic structure of this system’ should be changed if the people of Pakistan want to avoid a repeat of 1971. He needs an Inqlab which would be against the system, and ‘a few beneficiaries’ who are plundering the people and the country for 70 years. He is lamenting over the poor Pakistanis who do not have employment, security, health, educational and other facilities.
Nawaz Sharif also knows the answers to all these very simple questions but he does not like to mention them. Every one knows that Nawaz Sharif is also a product of the system he is talking about. General Ziaul Haq brought him in the politics in 1981 and since then Nawaz Sharif and his family are ruling in the country, especially in the Punjab. They are the real and biggest ‘beneficiaries’ of the system. Now, the Panama trial has officially showed and proved that Nawaz Sharif and Sharif family abused their political power for enhancing their wealth.
Until the day Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister, the entire system had nothing wrong in his eyes. It was a good system, based on a well- balanced and well-written constitution, parliamentary government, executive and active judiciary. But, after his conviction and removal, the entire system has become wrong, objectionable and changeable.
It is a fact that the Sharif family has the longest serving era in Pakistan’s history.  So, Nawaz Sharif would not like to bring about a revolution against himself and his family. In fact, like a very shrewd man, he is using the word revolution to target the army and the judiciary. His revolution would be against  these two forces which have proved instrumental in dethroning him. To get the support of the people for revolution, he launched the GT road rally.
Through his GT road march, Nawaz Sharif, in fact, has tried to achieve the following goals:
1: He has reassured his party supporters and workers that despite the life ban he is not quitting the politics. He is still the leader of the PML-N and will handle the party affairs in the future, too. Nawaz Sharif has also given a message of hope to the disappointed workers that they should not think to leave politics or change the party.
2: He has tried to convey the message to the army and the Supreme Court that Nawaz Sharif and Sharif family could not be ousted from the Pakistan’s politics and they would continue to command power politics in the country.
3: He has tried to show his political power and popularity among the people to put pressure on the establishment and other institutions like the NAB, FIA etc. In fact, his aim is to halt the NAB Court from under-taking any speedy proceeding with references against him and his family. Before the conclusion of the proceedings, Nawaz Sharif wishes to consolidate his power and position in the country, especially in the Punjab.
It is a proven fact that Nawaz Sharif has not achieved these three goals fully because 90 percent of the PML-N’s senior leadership was not present in the rally. It shows that there is a rift in the PML-N which is likely to be widened in the coming days. The war of words between Pervaiz Rashid and Nisar Ali Khan is clearly indicating  the tensions inside the PML-N.
Although Nawaz Sharif showed glimpses of popular support in Gujranwala and Lahore, the Sharif camp could not pull a massive crowd of the people in the rally. Everybody knows that the federal government, the Punjab government, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir government, the bureaucracy, patwaris, police, intelligence agencies and official resources – cars, Helicopters, jammers etc – were backing the Sharif rally. The government used the media, especially TV channels, to enhance the rally. In spite of all these efforts, the rally was a failed show of power.
Shaheen Sehbai, a senior journalist, writes: “It was as if the emperor was moving with his lashkar on a conquest. The entire Punjab belt Sharif covered travelling in his container is known for his political support and has hundreds of elected leaders, MNAs, MPAs, nazims, councillors and administrative officials loyal to him for years. Such a massive official and political support structure for any rally was never ever seen before or may not be seen again in Pakistan’s political history. It was the epic finale of the King getting his last farewell by his loyal fiefdom. It was Nawaz Sharif’s Last Hurrah. Yet despite such a huge infusion of official resources and total coordination between all sections of the executive (still under PML-N control), Nawaz Sharif was not able to provoke anyone or even pose a threat that could generate a response”.
There are also differences in the Sharif family on the question of succession to the “throne” of power. Many analysts are of the views that Nawaz Sharif family including Maryam Nawaz and Kulsoom Nawaz are not willing to give the office of prime minister to Shahbaz Sharif. The decision of the PML-N to keep Shahbaz Sharif in the Punjab in the name of protecting the party interests and putting forward Kulsoom Nawaz as a candidate in the Lahore by-election is clearly showing the power tussle in the family. There should not be any doubt about it that if Kulsoom Nawaz is elected, then Nawaz Sharif will manage the “throne” from the background.
To regain power, Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N are not afraid of taking extreme measures against the Supreme Court. In 1997, they physically attacked the Supreme Court while this time – the Speaker of National Assembly, at the behest of his political master, Nawaz Sharif, has directly attacked the integrity of the honourable Supreme Court’s Judge  Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who headed the five-member Panama case bench, by drafting a reference against him.
“The reference primarily raises the following grievances: 1) Justice Khosa deemed the Speaker to be a “loyalist” of Mr. Nawaz Sharif; 2) Justice Khosa did not appreciate that the Speaker did not have detailed evidence/JIT Report before him, at the time of disposing off reference against Mr. Nawaz Sharif; 3) by making observations against the Speaker, Justice Khosa “breached” the privileges afforded to proceedings of National Assembly; 4) Justice Khosa’s observations against the Speaker “encroach upon the sovereignty and sanctity” of the Parliament; 5) Speaker is not a “subordinate” office of the Federal Government; and 6) by making observations against the Speaker, Justice Khosa has also “besmirched the image of Pakistan”. As a result, the drafted reference submits that Justice Khosa is either “totally ignorant of the provisions of the Constitution” or is “prejudiced” against constitutional offices of the State, and has thus violated “norms of decency”, amounting to conduct that is “unbecoming” of a judge. The drafted reference further argues that Justice Khosa’s continuation as a judge, and further elevation to the post of CJP, would “encourage” him to “write such biased, unfounded and disputed judgments”, which is why he should be removed”.
After the leak of the drafted reference, the Attorney General of Pakistan has claimed that no such reference has been “filed”. But, despite this clarification, the PML-N has already damaged the integrity of the judiciary. They are trying to make Justice Khosa controversial for getting a favourable decision in the review petition. This time, due to very active, vibrant and watchful media, print, electronic and social, the PML-N government has badly failed to make the court a controversial institution.
In these depressing and uncertain situations, the PML-N and Nawaz Sharif have only one positive development  that the opposition parties are not united to oppose the PML-N. The PTI leader, Imran Khan, does not like to work with other political parties on a shared political agenda. The PPP has lost most of its political support and power except in the interior Sindh. The MQM Pakistan, the Pak Sir Zameen party, the Jamaat-e-Islami and the PAT have their own political agendas and priorities.
So, this division of the opposition is giving some hope to the PML-N to cope with the current political challenges. Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N should obey the Apex court’s orders and avoid unnecessary confrontation with the army and the  judiciary . Nawaz Sharif should realise that the Sharif dynasty is destined to crumble. But, at least, he can save the PML-N by bringing a real democratic order and culture in the party. The PML-N is  already in power at the federal level and in Punjab, Balochistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. So, it should try to serve the people wholeheartedly for getting their support in the coming elections.

Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi writes: “If the PML-N and the opposition parties cannot overcome their peculiar deficiencies and evolve a long-term and coherent approach to advance their own agendas, the current incoherence in Pakistani politics will persist. No matter which party is in power, the issues of poor governance, socio-economic inequities and ambiguous policies on some critical domestic and foreign policy issues would continue to haunt the political leaders. The judiciary and the military would watch the situation from the sidelines. They will also find it difficult to offer a better solution to the troubled Pakistani politics”.