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For whom the bell tolls

Whenever in trouble the Sharifs have always successfully fought for time, delaying things till the problem dies a natural death. This time despite filibustering for months the government could not (1) side-track the Panamagate revelations, the Supreme Court (SC) took up related petitions on 1st November or, (2) wriggle out from their treasonous concocted fabrication against the Armed Forces.

A five-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) headed by the Chief Justice (CJ) defused the potentially explosive civil war situation a day before the feared Armageddon in Islamabad by stating their intent to appoint a Commission on “Panamagate” headed by a SC judge with complete powers to probe, among others, the PM and his family. Inviting suggestions for TORs from opposing parties for their scrutiny by Thursday November 3, the Bench stated they will hold hearings on a daily basis to ensure an early outcome. When the parties failed to agree on the TORs by November 3, the SC gave them time till Monday November 7. They also ordered the PM’s three children to submit replies by that date. You can bet that the PM’s legal team will resort to “technical” delaying tactics on Monday.

Each side claimed victory, Imran Khan celebrating by holding a massive peaceful rally for partially getting what he wanted without his threatened “lockdown” being tested. Whatever spin the government gives to it, the SC’s intervention is a severe jolt to the PML(N). Their convoluted logic defending accusations against the PM by attacking Imran Khan did not gel. As PM it is Nawaz Sharif’s moral obligation to present himself for accountability and clear himself from all allegations. Putting up a brave face the government followed the advice given to the US President by a well-respected retired general sent to Vietnam to analyse the morass, “just declare victory and come home”. Whatever TORs are framed by the SC must bridge the deadlock between the PML-N’s and opposition’s TORs. The onus of evidence is on those implicated in the Panamagate; they have to give full disclosure and explain how the monies were transferred from Pakistan. The remarks of the Honourable judges about NAB’s inability to take action under Section 9 (5) of the NAO that allows NAB to proceed against any public official amassing wealth beyond a known source of income was revealing about NAB’s vested interest in failing to use their Constitutional powers.

The Burhan Interchange incident on October 31 was a very dangerous development for the Federation; it cannot be condoned. With containers filled with sand blocking the route the PTI convoy headed by the CM KPK Pervez Khattak was subjected to severe teargas shelling by Punjab Police and FC contingents. What the KPK CM said, albeit in anger, has very bad connotations for the future. What will happen to the authority of the Federation if the PM, or his Ministers and officials, are refused entry by the Provinces?

Consider what the PM’s Office said on the concocted fabrication issue: “The planted story related to the NSC and NAP meeting published in Daily Dawn on 6th October was a breach of national security. Evidence available so far points to a lapse on part of the Information Minister, who has been directed to step down from office to enable holding of an independent and detailed inquiry.” The PM Office’s statement attempted to exonerate Pervaiz Rashid by holding him to a passive rather than an active perpetrator. The widely held belief is that while he was not the author, he did plant the canard being actively propagated by Indian PM Narendra Modi for some time that Pakistan’s security establishment protected non-state actors indulging in terrorism in India. What an amazing “coincidence”!

Even with active help from Pervaiz Rashid, Modi’s efforts to tar and feather Pakistan as a terrorist state has not borne fruit; his most recent attempt was frustrated at a meeting of BRICS leaders in Goa where Modi called Pakistan the “mother-ship” of terrorism but none of the participants, China, Brazil and not even long-term Indian ally, Russia, supported his contention. However because of the Information Minister’s “complicity” he has been able to divert international attention from the Indian brutality in Kashmir. In June 2015 Indian PM Modi spouted venom against Pakistan in Dhaka, he repeated it in December 2015 in Kabul. In between, at various forums and meetings, he exhorted US President Obama and Chinese President Xi among other world leaders like UK’s David Cameron and Germany’s Angela Merkel to declare Pakistan a terrorist State. His surprise stopover in Lahore in December 2015 on his way back from Kabul at the invitation of PM Nawaz Sharif to attend a family marriage conveyed a very wrong perception about the Sharif family being soft on India even while our people along the borders are targeted by Indian artillery shelling, mortar fire and machine gunfire on a daily basis.

Billions of rupees of government/semi-government advertisements are used to influence the print and electronic media by the Information Minister. The huge reservoir of funds is supposed to propagate a good image for the country and for its institutions, particularly the security entities, both within the country and outside. A 30-35 member cell headed by the PM’s daughter Maryam in the PM’s House paid for by the Information Ministry is engaged in influencing the social media, heavily engaged in denigrating PML (N) opponents while propagating the PM and what the PM cannot say himself. The common perception is that the dovetailing of sacrificial lamb Pervaiz Rashid’s agenda with the black Indian anti-Armed Forces propaganda is no coincidence.

Enemy propaganda is defined as the spreading of ideas, information or rumour for injuring a country, an institution, a cause or a person, it is a form of persuasion used by an enemy to influence people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours. Treason is defined in many ways; one being “the betrayal of one’s own country by waging war against it or by consciously or purposely acting to aid its enemies” and another, “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.” Treason is typically used to refer to the betrayal of a government or a country, like when some wants to further enemy propaganda that is an act of deliberate betrayal. Aiding the enemy’s agenda by deliberate fabrication reinforces the adverse security perception of the ruling coterie.

When such a major black propaganda directed against the Armed Forces emanates from the PM’s House, can the country afford that the culprits escape accountability? Can national security issues be discussed in such an environment? The SC has taken up the Panamagate on petitions from individuals but the Armed Forces are not able to petition the SC. It then obligates the SC to protect the Armed Forces from such calumny by taking up suo motu proceedings into this treasonous fabrication. Or should the Army use Article 245 in force in the capital to arrest whoever the culprits are? The SC cannot let this ride, like in the Panamagate they must determine for whom the bell must toll. (The writer is a defence and security analyst)

Ikram Sehgal, "For whom the bell tolls," Business Recorder. 2016-11-04.
Keywords: Law and Humanities , Government publications , Admissible evidence , Information technology , Working environment , Religious leaders , Panamagate , BRICS , SC , PML-N , PTI , NAO