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Panama JIT: Has Army been trapped?


Moeed Pirzada |

On Monday, Pakistan Army, pledged to play its role in the Panama Investigations, by participation in the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) as directed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. DG ISPR issued a press release, after the 202nd Corps Commanders Conference.

Has any JIT ever delivered?

This press release has further compounded the debate going on in the country regarding the wisdom and effectiveness of a JIT, being created and supervised by the Supreme Court. None of the JIT’s constituted in the past few years has met public confidence or any yardstick of justice comparable to best international practices. “Model Town JIT” of 2014/15 is a case in point. It is widely perceived that it was used not to find the truth but to bail out the high ups in Punjab government responsible for the killings. JIT merely helped to water down the findings of the report of Justice Baqar Najfi of Lahore High Court; both the “Baqir Report” and JIT report were never made public. Many serious questions had thus already risen with regard to the effectiveness of this latest JIT Team for Panama; answers to which are, as of yet not clear.

Read more: Pakistani Politics after Panama Decision: Lull before the Storm?

JIT: Issues of Capacity, especially of Army officers?

The Joint Investigation Team, as constituted by the Supreme Court decision, will be composed of representatives from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), State Bank of Pakistan, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence.

None of the JIT’s constituted in the past few years has met public confidence or any yardstick of justice comparable to best international practices. “Model Town JIT” of 2014/15 is a case in point. It is widely perceived that it was used not to find truth but to bail out the high ups in Punjab government responsible for the killings.

The first and foremost question is regarding the capacity in which these individuals forming the JIT will be acting. Will they have access to the resources of their respective institutions or will they be acting as individuals and using their own expertise and judgment? These concerns become all the more important in the case of the representatives of the military. How will their individual skills be relevant to the case at hand? In this country, JITs have, unfortunately, a history of being notoriously non-consequential when it comes to investigating the government hence it is imperative that the veil of ambiguity surrounding these questions be lifted.

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

Dawn Leaks Report becomes Important? 

The upcoming ‘Dawn Leaks’ report, in these circumstances, now suddenly assumes a far greater importance as it will show whether the inclusion of the military establishment in a civil inquiry yields any tangible enforcement in the form of indictments, prosecutions, and convictions through due judicial process.


Dawn leaks cannot be explained as a mistake or blunder; it happened as a result of deliberate planning, action, and collaboration between several people inside Prime Minister’s Office. Govt friendly media has often tried to portray it as something related to Dawn or Cyrill Almeida, but they are only secondary characters. The real issue is: Who planned? who ordered? what was the motive?

And those political elements – PMLN and its allies – that spent the past four years spitting venom against Pakistan Army for perceived interference in politics – are now expecting Army to bail out PM Nawaz Sharif at a time when most opposition parties are demanding his resignation

If the result of the Dawn Leaks inquiry is again wishy washy and the government is handed another ‘clean chit’ – like the Model Town JIT – it will make it obvious, to all including the man on the street, that perceived influence of the military is a greatly exaggerated phenomenon. But it is precisely this “perceived influence” and its public appreciation that is being relied on by the Supreme Court judges in the Panama investigation. And it is this “perceived influence” that is being referred to by the Corps Commanders meeting in assuring the public. No one in Pakistan has any trust whatsoever in reps of SECP, State Bank, FIA, and NAB. But if the military is unable to get justice for itself, then what assurances is it offering to the public? This is now on almost every mind. Many public figures are openly expressing their doubts, these doubts have only multiplied by today’s Corps Commanders Conference.

Read more: Justice delayed is Justice denied: Panama Case nearing the end?

If the result of the Dawn Leaks inquiry is again wishy washy and the government is handed another ‘clean chit’ – like the Model Town JIT – it will make it obvious, to all including the man on street, that perceived influence of the military is a greatly exaggerated phenomenon. But it is precisely this “perceived influence” and its public appreciation that is being relied on by the Supreme Court judges in the Panama investigation.

In recent instances, the Army had maintained its aloofness when asked to influence civilian proceedings. Imran Khan repeatedly called upon the ‘third umpire’ during his Dharna and PAT chief Dr. Tahirul Qadri asked then COAS Gen. Raheel Sharif to provide justice for the victims of the Model Town tragedy – provoking protests from across the political divide. In both instances, the Army maintained its neutrality. This time, however, it is the Supreme Court that is calling and it seems to have forced the military to participate. But will military’s inclusion make any difference?

It, therefore, appears that the military establishment has been successfully dragged into a politically charged situation. The Pakistani public is experiencing a dreaded sense of déjà vu as the political sphere has again demonstrated its incapability to resolve issues on its own. And those political elements – PMLN and its allies – that spent the past four years spitting venom against Pakistan Army for perceived interference in politics – are now expecting Army to bail out PM Nawaz Sharif at a time when most opposition parties are demanding his resignation – for losing his moral and political legitimacy after the Panama decision.

Read more: Imran Khan Rejects Judicial Commission on Panama Corruption Case & Demands a Five Member Supreme Court Bench

Purpose of the JIT: To Give Nawaz another chance? 

Under the government lead media spin, and ISPR statements, most have forgotten that this JIT is only being set up to give PM Nawaz another chance to clear his name. But hopefully, people will regain their “common sense” soon.

Either way, Pakistan Army will lose -unless it designs an ultra-transparent process where every evidence presented, every argument advanced to JIT and every question raised by JIT will be known to media and public – the way it was in Supreme Court

The obvious facts are: despite one year of public debate, several months of court wrangling and most expensive lawyers PM Nawaz and his family were unable to provide satisfactory evidence of money trail to the public or in the court room. This is not about a murder trial, accused in this case is not being denied his life or liberty; this is about abuse of political office and exercise of political power.

Read more: Panama Papers & Pakistan’s kingdom of lies!

Anywhere else, other than Pakistan, any politician in Nawaz Sharif’s situation would have been forced to resign a long time ago. But here in Pakistan, such is the control of a narrow Punjab origin political, bureaucratic and legal elite that ever newer excuses are being crafted to extend Nawaz Sharif’s political fortunes. And the legal debate is being shaped around Panama Case on media as if it was a murder trial and accused could face grievous consequences of life or liberty – so he must keep on getting chances to clear his name. The reality is that in democracies if a politician in power is unable to clear his situation in open public forums then he is supposed to be lying. Had Pakistan been a normal country then forget the excuse of a JIT, this matter would have never gone to the Supreme Court.

Under the circumstances, how a JIT, that is perceived to be weak and compromised from the beginning and is ostensibly being set up to give Nawaz a chance, will make any difference in public perceptions? Where does Pakistan Army fit in?

Read more: Will there be any resolution on Panamagate?

It was in this charged political atmosphere that ISPR released a statement saying ‘The forum pledged that Institution through its members in JIT shall play its due role in a legal and transparent manner fulfilling confidence reposed by the Apex Court of Pakistan’.

Has Army been trapped into a strange JIT? 

Anywhere else, other than Pakistan, any politician in Nawaz Sharif’s situation would have been forced to resign long time ago. But here in Pakistan, such is the control of a narrow Punjab origin political, bureaucratic and legal elite that ever newer excuses are being crafted to extend Nawaz Sharif’s political fortunes.

What can the ‘due role’ of a military institution be in an investigation of financial forensics? The military has been put into a tight spot. PMLN and its allies – ANP, JUIF and PKMAP etc and many in the liberal media had spent last four years demonizing military for its perceived interference in politics. Now they are expecting Army to bail them out. If Army officers are assertive and firm in demanding credible evidence during the investigation they will be accused of a witch hunt against PM Nawaz and of conspiring against the democracy.

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

And if they are soft in their probes, then their image of integrity and reliability, held by the majority of the populace, will become compromised. In any case, the appeals to trust the process are being made to PTI and other opponents of PM Nawaz – so the process looks suspicious from the beginning. Either way, Pakistan Army will lose -unless it designs an ultra-transparent process where every evidence presented, every argument advanced to JIT and every question raised by JIT will be known to media and public – the way it was in the Supreme Court. Pakistani public has a special bond with its Army; it is not based on fear of guns but on respect, trust and deep admiration for the institution. If Panama JIT disrupts that relationship of trust, between the Army and the public then it will be a far bigger loss to the nation; whatever happens to the political fortunes of a politician, at the far end of his career, accused of serious corruption is a much smaller matter.

Moeed Pirzada is prominent TV Anchor & commentator; he studied international relations at Columbia Univ, New York and law at London School of Economics. Twitter: MoeedNj. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy. This piece was first published in Moeed Pirzada’s official page. It has been reproduced with permission.