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Doomsday politics

Disqualified as Prime Minister (PM) by the Supreme Court (SC) on July 28, Nawaz Sharif was forced to relinquish his position as President of PML-N. Tailor-made for one individual the passage of the Election Bill, 2017 on October 2 allowed any person disqualified from holding public office to lead political parties; no surprise Nawaz was promptly elected President PML(N) “unopposed”. Despite parliamentary debate on electoral reforms for a number of years, changing the party’s constitution now post-haste to accommodate Nawaz’s re-election shows personal motivation; the PML(N) is not a political party but a family fiefdom.

A number of eminent lawyers in Pakistan hold that a legislation passed by the two Houses of Parliament would not constitute contempt of the unanimous verdict/ratio of the judgement of the Honourable Supreme Court (SC) in what is commonly called the “PanamaGate”. The parameters of the three pillars of the Constitution being Legislature, Executive and Judiciary, functioning and powers are laid down in various relevant Articles to act and perform their respective stipulated duties and obligations in their respective domains. In particular those of the Executive and the Legislature passing such laws are prima facie not violative of the Fundamental Rights and Human Rights enshrined in the Constitution. Coupled with Articles 4, 5(2), 2(a) 37 and 38 of the Constitution, the superior courts of Pakistan have also laid down the same principle. Even than civilized logic demands that any laws enacted must have sincere intent and motive, should be good for the good of the entire people and not one single individual. Can Parliament pass the laws that protect the corrupt from facing accountability? Tailored to “democratic” whims for a cover up of corruption, money laundering, perjury, forgery, etc., passing this Nawaz-specific Amendment may or may not be contempt of court; it shows utter contempt for the people of Pakistan.

Indicative of a mindset totally devoid of reality, some party faithful hailed this “Doomsday politics” as a ‘historic day for democracy in Pakistan’. In reality, given the extraordinary evidence collected by the Joint Investigating Team (JIT), Nawaz, his children and son-in-law will go to jail. One does not believe the superior judiciary will succumb to the across the board subjective abuse, threats and blackmail of the worst kind, Maryam can keep on “twittering” as much as she wants. Faking news (and then leaking it through the social media) is not going to work. While this controversial amendment is Nawaz-specific, known extremists and criminals such as Uzair Baloch, Gullu Butt and others condemned by a court of law can now head political parties, with potentially disastrous consequences for the fabric of the nation.

Boasting democratic credentials and espousing commitment to the democratic ideals notwithstanding, the passage of the PML (N)-sponsored law negates every democratic principle. A weak Opposition could only “engage in cosmetic protest” (according to PPP’s Khursheed Shah) against the Bills. The pathetic figurehead of a President almost fell over himself rubberstamping the legislation with remarkable alacrity.

With his review petition rejected unanimously by the SC, Nawaz Sharif and his partymen went on a war path, crossing all constitutional bounds publicly heaping verbal abuse upon the judges and members of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT),mixing facts with fiction not only defying but defiling their good name and stature, threatening them with dire consequences. We have seen the Sharif men attacking the SC physically in 1998. This behaviour confirms that rule of law has no meaning for them. A belligerent Nawaz failed to mobilize the people onto the streets. Nawaz’s anguished cry of “Mujhe kyoon nikala? (why was I ousted?), conveniently forgets his own active role in removing PM Benazir Bhutto on two separate occasions and then getting PM Yousuf Raza Gilani disqualified in 2012. Instead of legally rebutting the charges of money-laundering, tax evasion, perjury, forgery, etc, trying to divert public opinion by going off on a totally political tangent will not work.

The PML (N) has been hinting at conspiracy theories whose exact nature and character remain unclear. Despite their innuendos and best efforts, the PML (N) could not trace any military fingerprints in Nawaz’s ouster as PM in the PanamaGate affair. Fortunate to have survived the 2013 election rigging case and the “Dawn Leaks” scandal, the former PM remains intent on baiting the Army. His deep-rooted dislike represents an inherent inferiority complex, this psychological mental roadblock manifest because he entered politics on the Army’s sponsorship. Compared to Zardari who owes his political standing to the assassination of his spouse Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz comes across as a decent, human being. Maryam’s ambitions a la Benazir are hell-bent on making him act way out of character as an ogre for his daughter’s sake.

Coupled with Maryam-type provocations, the Amendment is a giant step for “doomsday politics” and could well lead to a D-Day. The despicable speech Safdar made in the NA against a section of the non-Muslim Pakistanis confirms Nawaz fully deserves his son-in-law. Keeping his cool General Qamar Bajwa has kept his rank and file, rendering tremendous sacrifices in the war on terror on a daily basis, in line even when unsuccessful efforts were made to conjure rumours to erode the discipline of the military hierarchy. Two very significant three-star postings serves as a clear and unambiguous warning to Sharif’s loyalists. Should our soldiers keep dying to protect the corrupt? The DG ISPR dismissed any possibility of a martial law, “friction between army and civilian authorities, should not even be talked about”. Despite the Army’s “silence” the PML (N) tried to provoke something out of nothing.

A petition challenging the PML (N) “victory” Election Act 2017 as unlawful, unconstitutional, of no legal effect has been filed in the SC, praying the annulling of Nawaz’s re-election. To its credit the Senate has passed a resolution against a disqualified person heading a political party. We want to see a nation free from the clutches of the corrupt and greedy. If the Honorable SC judges stand their ground in spite of being subjected to “Kautilya’s Arthashastra-type” attacks, they will truly provide the light at the end of the tunnel the people of Pakistan so fervently aspire for.

Ikram Sehgal, "Doomsday politics," Business Recorder. 2017-10-13.
Keywords: Political science , Electoral reforms , Political parties , Fundamental rights , Constitution , Pakistan , JIT , SC

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