Al Capone
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Ikram Sehgal |

This week the Panama case entered its last, and possibly decisive round. On May 16, 2016, the PM had unequivocally stated in the National Assembly (NA) that a complete record of all his sources of income and assets was available, these have neither been provided to the JIT or the SC. While Justice Ejaz Afzal reminded the Sharif counsels, “We have been waiting for the money trail and the sources of income [to be revealed] since day one”, Justice Ijazul Ahsan reminded them, “You have taken the burden of proof upon yourself.” Nawaz Sharif’s vow to resign in a nationally televised address on April 22 even if one iota of guilt was attributed to him seems to have been conveniently forgotten. The Sharifs’ survival politically relies on hanging on to power at all costs.

Read more: JIT report: The road to a stronger Pakistan

exceeding their mandate?

On May 16, 2016, the PM had unequivocally stated in the National Assembly (NA) that a complete record of all his sources of income and assets was available, these have neither been provided to the JIT or the SC.

Nawaz Sharif’s lawyers alleged that the JIT had exceeded their mandate in proposing that 15 cases connected to the Sharif properties, among them the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case, be revived. Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan patiently explained that with the onus of establishing a money trail after claiming ownership of the London flats being on them, the JIT was meant to give the PM and his family full opportunity to vindicate their position.

The Sharifs are a closely knit family, not one member knew about the Avenfield flats. With the children started living there since 1993 Justice Ahsan wondered how these apartments were acquired when they did not have any sources of income.

Taking exception to the evasive manner in which Mian Nawaz Sharif had answered the questions of the JIT, the learned judges asked the PM’s counsel point-blank whether the judges should form their own opinion over the concealment of facts by his client or refer the matter to an accountability court? The Sharifs are a closely-knit family, not one member knew about the Avenfield flats. With the children started living there since 1993 Justice Ahsan wondered how these apartments were acquired when they did not have any sources of income. Justice Ijazul Ahsan required an answer to this fundamental question, “Where did the money for [the Sharif family’s] properties in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and London come from?”

Read more: Behold the JIT report! PML-N facade crumbling?

The testimony

According to the law firm Khalifa bin Huwaidan Advocates, based on the UAE’s labor laws Sharif would have received a salary while serving as Chairman until 2014.

PM’s counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed confirmed on Tuesday that Hassan Nawaz was the owner of Capital FZE, the PM was the designated Chairman of the Board till 2014. According to the law firm Khalifa bin Huwaidan Advocates, based on the UAE’s labor laws Sharif would have received a salary while serving as Chairman until 2014. Justice Azmat Saeed pointed out that Ishaq Dar had refused to accept his confessional statement (thereby making his “pardon” reportedly admitting to money laundering of $14.86 million and the opening of two bank accounts under the names of Sikandar Masood Qazi and Talat Masood Qazi for Nawaz Sharif’s brother, void).

The SC observed that prima-facie evidence of corruption by a holder of public office shifts the onus for proving his (or her) innocence from the prosecution to the defense.

To quote my article “Make-Believe Democracy”, “The SC observed that prima-facie evidence of corruption by a holder of public office shifts the onus for proving his (or her) innocence from the prosecution to the defense. Separately the Honourable Chief Justice (CJ) Mian Saqib Nisar quoted Hazrat Umar (RA) setting a personal example, “the accountability of the rulers is different from others”.

Read more: SECP under scrutiny, Panama JIT approaching its climax.

De-criminalising Democracy

Letting criminals utilize State apparatus for strong-arm purposes grabbing real estate, extorting money, indulging in murder, kidnapping and employing religious militants is beyond outright gangsterism, it amounts to “state terrorism” against the State’s citizens. This cannot be “Constitutional” by any stretch of the imagination.

In “De-criminalising Democracy”, I had written, “While neither tolerating nor condoning corruption in any form, one must forcefully differentiate between white-collar crimes and organized heinous crimes. Letting criminals utilize State apparatus for strong-arm purposes grabbing real estate, extorting money, indulging in murder, kidnapping and employing religious militants is beyond outright gangsterism, it amounts to “state terrorism” against the State’s citizens. This cannot be “Constitutional” by any stretch of the imagination, Raza Rabbani’s description of “democracy” notwithstanding! Bilawal House in Karachi (and the residential properties surrounding it) exists as a concrete symbol why the judiciary in Pakistan remains mostly deaf, dumb and blind to targeting criminals with a strong political base.

How long will Qamar Bajwa keep his cool in the face of an existential threat to the country? Is the oath of office to an individual or to the country?

Unlike the prevailing perception about Asif Ali Zardari, Mian Sahib is a decent human being with no reputation for ever misusing the state apparatus for brutal gangster methods. Such use for governance cannot be condoned and/or ignored forever, the SC, therefore, is the last bastion of accountability to avoid recurrence of “the doctrine of necessity.” How long will Qamar Bajwa keep his cool in the face of an existential threat to the country? Is the oath of office to an individual or to the country?

Read more: Will the JIT be able to handle PML-N’s pressure?

Buying some time

The Sharif counsels have fought the mountain of evidence existing against their clients by submitting last-minute evidence including letters from Arab royalty. With our PM and Finance Minister having been on Arab Princes’ payroll, is our “national security” subservient to their interests?

Resorting to delaying tactics to drag on the affair, using proxies to create confusion, fear and sow the seeds of dissent has added to the general impression that the Sharifs have been mostly fudging the facts to justify their hidden wealth abroad. The Sharif counsels have fought the mountain of evidence existing against their clients by submitting last minute evidence including letters from Arab royalty. With our PM and Finance Minister having been on Arab Princes’ payroll, is our “national security” subservient to their interests? GHQ should give us stupid people a break!

Dr. Glen Newey of Strathclyde University, Glasgow concluded that people should accept that some political deception is not only inevitable in a democracy but can be legitimate where it is conducted by elected politicians in the public interest where they have the tacit support of the electorate.

In a 2003 research study Dr. Glen Newey of Strathclyde University, Glasgow concluded that people should accept that some political deception is not only inevitable in a democracy but can be legitimate where it is conducted by elected politicians in the public interest where they have the tacit support of the electorate. In Pakistan, it is a case of politicians indulging in deception and falsehood to protect and further their own interests. The public’s or the national interest are never pressing priorities. The more the people demand openness and accountability the more our politicians, past and present, hasten to create a culture of suspicion and start resorting to evasion and misrepresentation. For the purpose of fairness, there should be a tougher yardstick to gauge whether or not public officials are lying or acting beyond their mandate.

Read more: Will judicial activism enable JIT to get accountability?

Celebrating a disqualification

Consider Hashmi’s Mario Puzo-like message (“The Godfather”) warning of dire vengeance. The Sicilian mafia is not fiction, they threaten and even murder judges, public prosecutors, police officials, etc, assassinating even former Italian PM Aldo Moro.

Disqualifying a serving PM is not something one can or should celebrate. Unfortunately what about the perjury, defamation of character, intimidation and threats, not taking cognizance of these would set a bad precedent, can the judiciary afford to turn the other cheek? Consider Hashmi’s Mario Puzo-like message (“The Godfather”) warning of dire vengeance. The Sicilian mafia is not fiction, they threaten and even murder judges, public prosecutors, police officials, etc, assassinating even former Italian PM Aldo Moro. While “The Godfather” was fiction based on reality, real-life examples like Al Capone in Chicago are very much a fact of life. The courts freed him many times for the many murders he committed (at least one with a baseball bat in front of hundreds of guests at a dinner) because witnesses refused to testify against him. Ultimately he was sent to jail on charges of “tax evasion”.

Read more: The summoning of the Sharif family by JIT: Shall we praise

Will Nawaz Sharif take an Al Capone-like fall because of “beneficial” but innocuous ownership in a Dubai offshore company when he shouldn’t have to be the Prime Minister?

Ikram Sehgal, author of “Escape from Oblivion”, is Pakistani defense analyst and security expert. He is a regular contributor of articles in newspapers that include: The News and the Urdu daily Jang. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

Ikram Sehgal, author of “Escape from Oblivion”, is Pakistani defense analyst and security expert. He is a regular contributor of articles in newspapers that include: The News and the Urdu daily Jang. He appears regularly on current affairs programs on television as a ‘defense and security analyst. He is a retired Pakistan Army officer.

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