News Analysis |
On Friday, July 21, 2017, the Supreme Court of Pakistan reserved its judgment on Panama Case. This case is holding the nation on edge and both the supporters and opponents of the Sharif family wait impatiently for the judgment. The first casualty of this case so far is apparently the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) Chairman Zafar Hijazi who was taken into custody by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Friday morning in Islamabad after his interim bail expired.
The arrest comes just over a week after the investigating team, tasked by the Supreme Court with probing the graft claims, said that documents naming Sharif’s daughter Maryam as a trustee for several of the family’s high-end London properties were “falsified”.
The JIT report alleged that the SECP chairman had altered records related to Chaudhry Sugar Mills. An investigation team headed by FIA Director Maqsood ul Hassan had also submitted a report to the SC on July 8, which found the chairman guilty of altering the records in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case.
Accused in hospital instead of Jail
Instead of putting the accused Mr. Zafar Hijazi behind bars, he was taken to a hospital in Islamabad for a medical checkup. Unfortunately, for Chairman SECP, two reporters from Channel 24 and Dawn News, Saba Bajeer and Aitzaz Hassan were also present in the hospital and took his pictures while also inquiring about his health.
It has been reported today that Mr. Hijazi has complained of chest pain and he has been admitted to hospital for four days. The Court remanded Mr. Hijazi to the custody of FIA for four days as well. Chairman SECP will now spend his remand on hospital bed instead of lockup.
At this, FIA Assistant Director Tahir Tanveer approached Ms. Bajeer, grabbed her arm and asked her to delete the photos captured by her. The FIA official then started pushing Mr. Hassan, on whose suggestion Ms. Bajeer had proceeded to delete the photos. Hassan’s mobile phone and cards were then seized in the presence of 6-7 FIA personnel.
Read more: Narratives galore on the Panama saga
The FIA personnel then forced both the journalists into a room at the hospital, where they were illegally detained for an hour without their phones. Meanwhile, the SECP chairman’s family members together with FIA officials manhandled other media representatives who had gathered by then to rescue their colleagues. The two reporters were let go after journalists started a protest against FIA’s actions.
It has been reported today that Mr. Hijazi has complained of chest pain and he has been admitted to hospital for four days. The Supreme Court remanded Mr. Hijazi to the custody of FIA for four days. However, Chairman SECP will now spend his remand on a hospital bed instead of being in a jail.
What will happen if Supreme Court refers the case to NAB to probe PM Sharif and his family members?
The decision on Panama Case will be announced soon and speculations abound over possible judgments. The Supreme Court can disqualify the Prime Minister on counts of money laundering, providing forged documents to the Court, lying on the floor of Parliament or it can simply send a reference to NAB to further probe the allegations of money laundering and corruption.
For example, the current government appointed Mr. Saeed Ahmed as President of National Bank of Pakistan who is accused of money laundering for Nawaz Sharif. Similarly, the previous PPP government was accused of promoting loyalists in bureaucracy and other civilian institutions.
The Court can give any judgment on basis of merit but the last probability i.e. sending of reference to NAB for probing the Prime Minister or Sharif family will not be well received by the public.
As evident from the allegations of forgery leveled on the Chairman SECP point towards a systematic drawback in the institutions of Pakistan. The ruling parties usually appoint hand-picked individuals at important positions on the basis of party affiliations and loyalty by totally disregarding merit.
For example, the current government appointed Mr. Saeed Ahmed as President of National Bank of Pakistan who is accused of money laundering for Nawaz Sharif.
Similarly, the previous PPP government was accused of promoting loyalists in bureaucracy and other civilian institutions. Even Mr. Hijazi is alleged to have been appointed as the Chairman SECP on these grounds.
If the Supreme Court itself is not satisfied with the performance of NAB, then sending a reference to it to probe the Sharif family will raise many doubts on the credibility of its investigation. This might also lead to public unrest and large scale protests which might pit the institutions against each other which will not be in public interest.
The Supreme Court has already made its reservations on the poor performance of NAB public.
The Chairman NAB and other officials are regularly summoned in Supreme Court and are grilled for failing to perform efficiently. The troubles of NAB are not new, as, during the Panama gate hearing, Justice Khosa led 5- member bench grilled the NAB prosecutor general over his failure to file an appeal against Lahore High Court decision in infamous Hudaibiya Paper Mills case back in 2014. Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed went to the extent of remarking that NAB had died before the bench, while Justice Khosa also showed serious reservations about NAB powers to act against corrupt practices.
If the Supreme Court itself is not satisfied with the performance of NAB, then sending a reference to it to probe the Sharif family will raise many doubts on the credibility of its investigation and on the intentions of the Supreme Court itself. Such referral has potential to lead to public unrest and large scale protests; pitting national institutions against each other.
Institutions at the beck and call of the rich and powerful
The recent incident in which Mr. Zafar Hijazi’s family members harassed journalists with the full support and protection of FIA points towards a worrying trend prevailing in Pakistan. The powerful individuals are always protected by the state in one way or another.
Shahzeb Khan Murder Case is still fresh in the memories of the nation. The way, the family of the murderer, Shahrukh Jatoi with the support of PPP leaders forced the family of the victim to forgive the accused indicated that the powerful in this country can get away with as heinous a crime as murder.
The powerful in this country use institutions to bail themselves out and dodge justice. Police, NAB, FIA, and FBR among others have become a tool used by the mighty to suppress the truth. Even doctors play a major role in protecting the accused. Mr. Musharraf was ‘advised’ by doctors to travel abroad for treatment which otherwise ‘might’ have led to the deterioration of his health. The federal government used his poor health as an excuse to put his name off the Exit Control List. Mr. Musharraf is fine and healthy now, ‘thanks to the timely action taken by the Federal government’. A similar pretext was used Dr. Asim and now Mr. Hijazi.
Shahzeb Khan Murder Case is still fresh in the memories of the nation. The way, the family of the murderer, Shahrukh Jatoi with the support of PPP leaders forced the family of the victim to forgive the accused indicated that the powerful in this country can get away with as heinous a crime as murder. Similarly, Baluchistan MPA Majeed Achakzai, even after killing a traffic warden in broad day light is being given protocol at the expense of tax payers’ money and is being provided with facilities which are not available to other inmates. News of pressure on the victim’s family to settle for Diyat has already emerged.
The Supreme court’s role in the Panama fiasco so far has given a ray of hope to the common people in the country. That a ruling family can be brought to account. History is rife with examples where the powerful bow down to the masses. Perhaps, the noose is tightening around the powerful elites. Regardless of the outcome of the case, the Panama drive may prove to be a milestone in Pakistan’s accountability culture.
Due process, a code of law, and principles of transparency have been followed – a first in the troubled history of the country.