Ajaz ul Haque |
The Irony of Ironies – a former Prime Minister is sent to prison for corruption and a JIT serves a damning indictment on a former President for money laundering on the same day. December 24, 2018, will be remembered as a historic day in Pakistan’s political and judicial history for setting course correction against corruption and thuggery that has persisted in Pakistani politics for the last several years.
When PPP and PMLN signed the so-called ‘Charter of Democracy’, the intention of their leaders was to rule Pakistan indefinitely by taking turns and keeping a blind eye to other’s corruption. Little did they know that 2018 was no ordinary year and their game was to fall flat on its face, thanks to someone they considered an outsider and unlikely to ever become Prime Minister, Mr. Imran Khan.
The previous NAB Chairmen, a Nawaz Sharif crony refused point blank to investigate those cases, so the accountability under corrupt leadership became no more than a joke.
For several years, National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the body that investigates and indicts corrupts in Pakistan was used as a subsidiary of PPP & PMLN with hand-picked Chairmen virtually stalling all investigations and turning a blind eye to corruption cases, so no case of any major politician progressed investigation stage, let alone trial and sentencing.
This is despite the Supreme Court’s clear directives to complete investigation of 150 mega corruption cases and take them to their logical conclusion. The previous NAB Chairmen, a Nawaz Sharif crony refused point blank to investigate those cases, so the accountability under corrupt leadership became no more than a joke.
The appointment of Justice (Rtd.) Javed Iqbal as Chairman started changing things slowly but surely; investigation and trials in corruption cases started. The first ray of sunshine came on July 6, 2018, when under Supreme Court’s directives NAB tried and then convicted former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and her husband Safdar, who were all found guilty of possessing assets beyond means, lying to courts and falsifying documents.
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They were sentenced to ten years, seven years and two years’ imprisonment respectively and were also awarded heavy fines. All this happened while PMLN still held the reins of power, though Nawaz Sharif has already been disqualified for life for not declaring a UAE resident permit while holding office as Prime Minister, an utterly shameful act on his part for demeaning the office of the PM.
In 2018 the landscape kept changing throughout. Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) campaigned for accountability that bore fruit in general elections. With his coalition partners, he won a majority of seats in National Assembly, Punjab Assembly and a two-thirds majority in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Never before, had the shrewd voters of KP ever returned to the same party twice.
It seems that both PPP and PMLN leaders thought they owned the country and the loot and plunder was their entitlement and that they would never be caught or brought to justice.
This was a major achievement by PTI to win two successive terms and return with a two-thirds majority. With Imran Khan as Prime Minister, NAB’s hands were strengthened considerably. For the first time, they were allowed to do their work honestly, freely, without restraint and meddling from the Federal Government.
What the two main parties that ruled by taking turns did not realize that the political landscape in Pakistan had changed considerably. Thirty-one million new voters were registered for the 2018 elections, many of whom were young enthusiastic PTI supporters voting for the first time. Also, stories of Nawaz Sharif’s mega corruption were out in the open and even some of his ardent supporters were shocked to learn of the massive amounts of money transfer between sons, father, and daughter.
They could not comprehend where these huge amounts of money were coming from. Maryam Nawaz, who had openly declared not owning a single property in Pakistan and abroad turned out to be the Trustee and owner of some of the multi-billion Rupee properties in England in the Avenfield reference case.
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Meanwhile, PPP completely ran amuck in the Sind Province. Between Mr. Zardari, his sister and their cronies allegedly gobbled up a major portion of Sind Government Budget. In addition, kickbacks, commissions, and backhanders amounting to billions of rupees were garnered in one form or another.
Fake bank accounts, money laundering through shipment and fashion models became the order of the day. It seems that both PPP and PMLN leaders thought they owned the country and the loot and plunder was their entitlement and that they would never be caught or brought to justice.
The year 2018 has hit both these parties like a tornado, uprooting their anchors and sent them twisting in the air. In the case of Nawaz Sharif, the appeals process has yet to be completed, but the evidence is compelling and it will be tough for even a soft-hearted High Court judge to show leniency and the Supreme Court is in no mood for nonsense and will most likely overturn any lenient decision.
Exciting times ahead for Pakistan thanks to Imran Khan’s steadfast resolve to root out corruption and to focus on economic development with a view to pulling Pakistan out of the current economic morass.
So, while Nawaz Sharif tastes the joy of prison, Mr. Zaradari has some more time in hand. The JIT report is indeed damning, but the Supreme Court is not a trial court and it is likely to refer the matter to FIA or NAB for further investigation, framing changes and trial. However, the Supreme Court may take up the case of undeclared assets by Mr. Zardari in his affidavit submitted earlier and could disqualify him for life from holding public office under Constitution’s Clause 62 (1) (f).
It will also be interesting to see how new leadership takes shape once the top leadership of PMLN and PPP is behind bars. Perhaps it will be a good thing for these parties, Pakistan, and democracy if fresh, new, and honest leadership steps forward, cleans house and serves the people who elect them to the office rather than rob them.
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Exciting times ahead for Pakistan thanks to Imran Khan’s steadfast resolve to root out corruption and to focus on economic development with a view to pulling Pakistan out of the current economic morass. Pakistan is not a poor country and there is plenty of money to go around for education, healthcare, good governance, and major development projects, provided the leaders spend money for the welfare of the people rather than filling their pockets. With Imran Khan in the driving seat that is exactly what one expects to happen.
Ajaz ul Haque is a Chartered Accountant and an international commentator on finance, economy, and politics. He writes a blog under the title ‘The Political Beast’ at http://politicalbeast1.blogspot.com/. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.