The accountability process is not moving mainly because of the planned delays by the accused. The PML(N) and PPP (Zardari) policy of stalling the process is working for them. It is a stalemate, neither conviction nor exoneration. Common law is too weak to combat white-collar crime. There are serious procedural flaws in the legal framework.
Those who do not seek justice can easily delay proceedings and then complain of selective accountability of the opposition. Naturally the system has capacity limitations, and everyone cannot be tried at the same time. Political parties that have been in power in the last three to four decades have to be tried first. Once the convictions start, the clean-up operation will commence, that is why the entire process is being stalled.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan has called for setting up 120 additional Accountability Courts to speed up the process. The message should be loud and clear, in order to stay in the political arena all accused of corruption have to come clean. They have only two choices; either boycott or submit, delay will go against them.
Coming from a socially conscientious family of litigants, I inherited about 20 court cases after my father had moved to his heavenly abode. As a soldier of the Quaid-e- Azam he remained a fighter till the end. Every file that I opened had several requests for early hearing of the case.
Those who seek justice push for expeditious disposal of their litigation. Mostly the guilty seek delays. In all the cases in the Accountability Courts there is not a single request for early hearing. Mian Nawaz Sharif played a smart one. There were two judges in the Islamabad circuit (Muhammad Bashir, Arshad Malik).
Bashir the upright judge was hearing the cases. The PML(N) first softened the second judge and then moved an application for transfer of their case. Judge Arshad Malik could not exonerate Mian Sahib but provided as much relief as he could manage. He was disgraced and blackmailed and then finally removed from service.
The judiciary is less influenced by the extended rule of the two mainstream parties, but it has not been able to blunt the evasive and delaying tactics of the accused
The bureaucracy, including the police, in Punjab is heavily influenced by the PML(N). In a short span of a few months there were two blatant attacks in the city. The lawyers marched from the District Courts to ransack the Punjab Institute of Cardiology on Jail Road. All the TV channels showed their live march with threats against the doctors, yet no one stopped them.
They carried out their mission, a few were arrested and then bailed out after a couple of days. Despite this serious lapse, the CCPO (Capital City Police Officer)was not removed. Why? Emboldened by this soft response by the Police, the NAB office came under attack when Mariam Safdar was summoned for investigation.
The PML(N) mob gathered at Jatti Umra, they were armed with stones. Led by the convicted on-bail daughter of Mian Sahib, the office came under attack. It was another blatant failure of the law enforcement agencies. A few were arrested and then bailed out. The CCPO survived again. Why?
The judiciary is less influenced by the extended rule of the two mainstream parties, but it has not been able to blunt the evasive and delaying tactics of the accused. While the people expect expeditious accountability the system has failed them. Eventually a feeling is become prevalent, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’. A counter-mechanism has to be developed, but in the meantime the public should know the impediments being created in connivance with, or due to lack of performance of, the prosecuting agencies.
In the classic case of drug trafficking against Rana Sanaullah, he has taken three adjournments and one no-show. As a lawyer he knows all the tricks to delay the case, which has not even started yet. On the floor of the House Khawaja Asif calls it illegal detention, while he is stalling the case, and he has neither been convicted nor exonerated but remains an accused for a very serious crime that can result in capital punishment.
The Mukti Bahini in East Pakistan as a militant wing of Awami League gradually encroached on state authority till the situation spiraled out of control and military action was initiated, but by then it was too late
If one does not have faith in the judicial system or the court, boycott is an option but then the trial can be held in absentia and there is a risk of conviction. Bhutto tried that when his application for a change of judge was rejected. Maulvi Mushtaq Ahmed, as Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, bore him a grudge for not promoting him on his turn.
Some of his remarks against the ex-PM were later expunged by the Supreme Court. On several occasions I saw Bhutto being taken to the LHC for trial. He was transported in a Police jeep form his cell in Kot Lakhpat to the court. There were no mobs or workers who accompanied him, yet the prosecution wanted an in-camera trial in the prison which was turned down by Mr Justice Samdani.
Though Bhutto had no faith in the trial court, he went ahead and submitted himself to the judicial process, hoping to get relief from the Supreme Court. Unfortunately the process was manipulated and in a close split decision (4 to 3) his appeal was denied. There were some demonstrations but the courts were not attacked.
Only the PML(N) has the unique distinction of attacking the highest court of the land. On 28 November 1997 the goons of PML(N) attacked the Supreme Court. Comrade Tariq Aziz, who was a sitting MNA from Lahore, never recovered from this dark episode. According to him, he was made to believe that there would be a demonstration in support of the PM, but it turned out be a full-fledged attack.
This game of hide-and-seek and hit-and-run should come to an end, enabling the legal process to reach its logical conclusion the sooner the better. Pakistan has to be cleansed to move forward
The judges had to run to save their lives, court rooms were taken over. I twas the same court that had earlier restored the dismissed government of Mian Sahib, the only time in the history of Pakistan. Again when Sharif’s dummy Chief Minister Punjab was removed through a no-confidence motion, the Assembly Chambers were vandalized by the party members. Finally the recent attack on the NAB Lahore office is an unpardonable offence which should not go unpunished.
The PML(N), despite being a creation of the establishment, has been pushing the limits of decent politics with physical assault on state authority which has to be checked before it is too late. The Mukti Bahini in East Pakistan as a militant wing of Awami League gradually encroached on state authority till the situation spiraled out of control and military action was initiated, but by then it was too late.
In order to survive the state must assert itself. Weaknesses in the maintenance of order can have dreadful consequences. Considering the extraordinary circumstances, the judiciary must rise to the occasion and deliver expeditious accountability. Arrests by NAB are not enough unless backed up by well-prepared prosecution that leads to conviction or exoneration on merit, not through delays or cover-ups.
Submission to the law is the only civilized way to seek justice. Everything else is a short-term fix that eventually falls short. This game of hide-and-seek and hit-and-run should come to an end, enabling the legal process to reach its logical conclusion the sooner the better. Pakistan has to be cleansed to move forward.
Dr. Farid A.Malik is the Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. (Fr. General Manager PITAC, Process Engineering Manager Intel Corporation Engineering and Management Consultant). He was a Shadow Minister PTI and Co-Ordinator of the PTI Think Tank where the framework of the Welfare State was developed. The article was first published in Pakistan Today and has been republished here with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.