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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Has the Supreme Court just further delayed the process of justice?

Muhammad Azam |

The verdict passed by the Supreme Court on the Panama case shows that our institutional structures still lack the ‘power’ to enforce the standard of character required by our nation’s law. There are not many who by now would deny that our Prime Minister does not fall under the expanded definition of ‘Sadiq and Ameen’, evident by his joyous celebration of a verdict that has rebuked his defense but was just one vote short of outright condemnation.

After a thorough examination of the evidence presented by the defense, an additional investigation by the JIT implies that new evidence may emerge. A Saudi letter perhaps?

Maybe the celebration was justified given the confidence of the Sharif family that they might be able to break free of the “apparent, ongoing” investigation now to be carried out by the JIT. Empowered by the fact that the investigation is to be conducted by institutions under government control (save ISI and MI) which had previously failed to pursue any wrongdoing of the Prime Minister with regards to the Panama revelations. There seems to be a buffer between reality and the perceptions of the three Supreme Court judges that requested the JIT.

Read more: After Panama: The ‘Untouchable Elites’ survive to live another day

The formation of a Joint Investigation Team had previously been proposed by the Prime Minister in an address to the National Assembly. This proposal had been rejected by the opposition on the grounds that an impartial investigation was not possible without the resignation of the Prime Minister. It has become clear that the Supreme Court judges do not ascribe to this view. Which is surprising, given their condemnation of the NAB chairperson for not doing his job, what will now change that he or those under him will do a thorough job?

The court after examination of the evidence presented by the defense, seems to have thought that an additional investigation by the JIT may uncover new evidence. A Saudi letter perhaps? Why have the judges ordered a JIT with the same officials, NAB, FIA, SBP, and SECP, that have previously refused point blank to investigate the Panama allegations, when asked to do so by the Public Accounts Committee.

It is even not clear why the Supreme court – an arm of the executive branch- has added in personnel from Military intelligence or the ISI into this JIT committee. It seems, that it is being done so to give a message to the public that their inclusion means the process of investigation will be a fair and transparent. But, both these military institutions have no forensic financial expertise in such matters, which is what is required. As a country, we would have been better off if the court had ordered the inclusion of foreign auditing firms that engage in tracking such money laundering trails. If we really wanted to get to the bottom of such matters.

Read more: Panama case sharpens existing divisions within the PML-N

As a consequence, the ideals of Iqbal have all but drowned in the dysfunctional capitalism that has seeped into the foundations of our society.

It is easy to rant about the shortcomings of our judiciary but it will not help in identifying the crux of our national predicament. We as a nation have convoluted ethical standards which form the basis of our current collective identity. The reasons are innumerable and complex but the one which has proved most malignant is confusion induced by western influence on the type of political system that we need in Pakistan. Adopting blueprints for democracy from the west, where citizens mostly identify as unique individuals rather than part of any tribe or ethnicity, or religious sect has confronted us with a steep learning curve. It has also brought all those problems not encountered in the west when practicing the same political system.

Read more: Panama Crisis & Government by threats, bluffs and lies!

Western leaders accused of an involvement in Panama – have not needed to be dragged to court to explain their source of funds. They voluntarily resigned on matters of much less import. They did not need to be told in court they are not ‘sadiq’ or ‘ameen’ before resigning. Nawaz Sharif, the democratically elected leader of Pakistan – will not be leaving on a matter of honor or reputation. It is clear, he does not care about the democratic system but his personal power – he will need to be dragged out of his seat of power – even if this comes at the cost of the country’s political system. The situation may appear bleak but these trials can be perceived as the growing pains of our state. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his consortium may have escaped accountability, albeit with considerable cardiovascular strain, but they cannot escape their mortality.