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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The Nawaz Strategy: step by step acquittal.

Legal experts argue that the current strategy being pursued by the PM’s legal and political team is a strategy of “Step by Step Acquittal”. At this stage, focus is on forcing the Supreme Court, through legal arguments and political pressure – through media narrative – to send the case against the Sharif’s to a trial court.

In the 25 page additional submission to the Supreme Court, the prime minister pleaded, through his counsel Khawaja Harris, that since JIT report had raised issues of both facts and law, therefore, the SC, being an appeals court and not a trial court, should not hear these point. Argument is that on the issues raised by JIT, proper evidences need to be recorded as per the “due process of law” which is only possible in a trial court; as otherwise it may adversely affect the interests of Nawaz Sharif

In democracies, political office holders resign when confronted with serious accusations which cannot be easily explained in public space

Nawaz Sharif’s interesting line of argument makes it clear that he is neither prepared to resign nor does he agree with the country’s Supreme Court’s jurisdiction or authority to judge him.

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

The unparalleled situation in which PM Nawaz Sharif has landed Pakistani system, would be surprising in any democracy as it raises two difficult questions:

First, Nawaz Sharif, his lawyers, and supporters are acting and behaving as if the prime minister is being tried as an ordinary citizen who risks, in a prosecution, the loss of life, liberty or property. The reality is that Nawaz Sharif is the highest political office holder in a democracy and what he faces is loss of office. But his hold on the office of prime minister does not constitute a ‘fundamental right’ (unlike the right of a common citizen to life, liberty or property). Also Supreme Court is not being called upon to determine his culpability in cases of criminal nature; such cases can only be heard by a trial court; Supreme Court has to determine if he has been, as an office holder, honest and truthful in his answers to public, courts and JIT.

In democracies, political office holders resign when confronted with serious accusations which cannot be easily explained in public space. Such issues in democracies never go to court in the first instance, rather the accused steps down from the position of influence. But in Pakistan accusations of corruption are moving from one forum to another, because the incumbents are so powerful that they are forcing the system to provide them with one avenue after another – buying step by step acquittal.

Second difficult question: a prime minister who is strong enough to advise the Supreme Court, that it cannot determine if he was honest and truthful in his responses to the questions raised by the apex court wants evidence to be recorded against him in a trial court while maintaining all executive control on government departments and agencies. The case of Zafar Hijazi, Chairman SECP, who is under arrest for forging documents of Chaudhary Sugar Mills to fabricate evidence with the sole aim to help Nawaz Sharif, in investigations by JIT, highlights the gargantuan conflict of interest in his approach. Given this reality, how would then Supreme Court justify transfer of the case to trial court without first disqualifying Nawaz Sharif from his post as prime minister?

The Sharif family has not filed a Data Disclosure Consent form to either the courts or JIT to obtain information about offshore accounts and businesses in the British Virgin Islands and Saudi Arabia.

Nawaz Sharif has definitely created history, by his arrogance, ego and control on system of Pakistan. Some legal experts argue that the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif as prime minister by the apex court will set a bad precedent yet others argue that no public office holder in democratic history has been given more opportunities to defend himself.

From April 2016 till now Sharif family has availed public addresses, rallies, friendly private media, the state broadcaster, parliament, the ministry of information and all resources available to the government, two separate benches of Supreme Court and finally a JIT constituted by the apex court to give yet another opportunity to explain their position.

Read More: Is Nawaz Sharif finally reaching his end?

Despite all these unparalleled opportunities, Sharif family has not signed or approved a “Data Disclosure Consent” to either the courts or JIT to let them obtain information about offshore accounts and businesses in the British Virgin Islands and Saudi Arabia. Not doing so is merely a technical defense; for a political office holder who denies any wrongdoing, this only weakens his case. Sharif family’s continuous ability to maneuver the system is only undermine the system – worst casualty is clearly the Supreme Court of Pakistan which, many fear, is unable to decide the case, on merit, against the most powerful political office holder in the land. Delay is only facilitating Nawaz Sharif’s strategy of “Step by Step Acquittal” – legal minds argue.