For Whom The Bell Tolls

Nawaz Sharif's trial is an acid test of justice, can Pakistan afford vacillation when the damning facts have been counterchecked and confirmed many times over? Having been economical with the truth, Sharif has a problem exercising his moral authority and/or credibility to govern.

Posted on 07/16/17
By Ikram Sehgal | Via ViewsWeek
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is running out of options after a scathing investigation report found him and his family on the wrong side of the law. (Photo via DFID)
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is running out of options after a scathing investigation report found him and his family on the wrong side of the law. (Photo via DFID)

Monday July 10, 2017 will go down as a day of some consequence for accountability in Pakistan’s history, and maybe its destiny. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the PanamaGate case observed “significant gap/disparity amongst the known and declared sources of income and the wealth accumulated”. Leveling concrete accusations of tampering with documents, forgery, lying under oath and attempting to conceal records, the JIT highlighted “the irregular movement of huge amounts in shape of loans and gifts” from UK and Pakistan-based companies owned by the PM and his family. How were these loss-making business entities able to purchase such extremely expensive properties?


Recommending a “Reference” against Mian Nawaz Sharif, his sons Hussain, Hassan and daughter Maryam Nawaz to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), among its damning key conclusions the JIT dubbed the much touted Qatari letter as ‘myth, not a reality’. An offshore company, FZE Capital (of which Mian Nawaz Sharif was Chairman till 2014), was unearthed in the UAE. The JIT report indicted the PM for enjoying pecuniary benefits other than dividends from his businesses in the shape of unexplained inflows to his personal bank accounts on a regular basis. The PM was also charged with misreporting his wealth statement.  The process of money laundering did not start in Aug 1992 as reported by FIA and NAB investigation but started actually in Sept 1991. US$ 2.23 million were deposited in two accounts, one in the name of NBP President Saeed Ahmad, to hide its source this was later transferred into the accounts of Musa Ghani and Talat Masud Qazi in the shape of Dollar Bearer Certificates. The SC instructed FIA to lodge a case against Chairman SECP Zafar Hijazi for tampering with documents.  The opening of a Pandora’s Box for the PM and his family in the PanamaGate case because of “money-laundering” is not confined to Pakistan.  The Sharif family will likely face criminal indictment under UK, UAE and Saudi Arabia laws and forced to declare their other assets hitherto kept hidden.


PML (N) stalwarts celebrating the SC April 20 order as a victory displayed warped logic.  Two senior judges opted to disqualify the PM for not being honest and trustworthy (Sadiq and Ameen). Without disagreeing with the extreme denouement of the PM by their two senior colleagues, the majority three judges did not give the PM a clean chit, to be sure they wanted a “smoking gun”, a more detailed scrutiny by a JIT. Failing to get some of their men included in the JIT being formed, PML (N) bigwigs tried to make the JIT as controversial as possible.  Using unacceptable language PML (N) Parliamentarians went overboard making open threats, blatantly using State machinery, including PTV, to propagate hatred and controversy against JIT and by extension, the SC.  The “Press Information Division” (PID) platform was used to reject the JIT Report as ‘worthless trash’, their misinformation and propaganda failed to bring their supporters spontaneously into the streets. Vowing to foil ‘conspiracies’ being hatched Barrister Zafarullah Khan labelled the JIT report as ‘a political statement which reads like an “Imran-Nama”.  Spreading venom and falsehood against the superior judiciary is perilous for the State. Under such latitude anything might happen, civil war-like conditions are being deliberately created to sow chaos. On such grounds alone the SC can well disqualify the PM and many of his PML (N) colleagues for obstructing justice and defamation.


Sufficient evidence exists about (1) the PM and family misstating facts, hiding assets and lying to the people under oath and (2) attempting to frustrate every investigation, every order and every legal act, using any and all means, including money to influence. For this PML (N) govt to continue they must elect a new leader.


Perceived to be the heir apparent, Jugnu Mohsin’s star pupil Maryum Nawaz launched her political career with a tremendous performance (was she being prompted through an earpiece?), post her interrogation by JIT on July 5. The JIT disclosed that the Calibri font not being available for public use at that time, the documents she submitted for being a “trustee” and not a “beneficial owner” were forged. This criminal offense aside, the JIT further accused her of accumulating “assets disproportionate JIT and beyond means of known sources of income” disclosing “she had been receiving heavy gifts from Rs 73.5 million to Rs 830.73 million within period of 2009-2016”.  Her political career may seem in doubt, Jugnu and Maryum should not lose hope. As he himself accepts, if Asif Zardari can become President anything can happen in Pakistan.  Those in the media who spread disinformation must be taken to task.  A particularly despicable “Mr know-it-all” penned a lengthy blatant falsehood and then later propagated it shamelessly on several TV channels.  Is his apology to escape punishment enough?  Who will be held accountable for allowing the disseminating of false information meant to deliberately defame and mislead? Give Gen Bajwa credit for keeping his (and his command) cool in the face of grave provocation about “conspiracies” and enemy-inspired DawnLeaks.


The PML (N) behavior has shown that rule of law has no meaning for them.  The Sharif Camp’s potential to cause political mischief could irretrievably damage the fabric of Pakistan. The rhetoric emanating from the Sharif camp is obnoxious, it is meant to foment civil strife and could even start a civil war as is happening in many countries. What do the likes of the Sharifs or the Zardaris care? Their assets abroad are multiple times more than what they own (or at least declare) in Pakistan! Staying with the Constitution, civilian authority has to take draconian measures not only to preserve the life, liberty and well-being of the common citizen but to preserve democracy.  One of the great democrats of his time, US President Abraham Lincoln declared martial law in 1861 to preserve the Union.


This is an acid test of justice, can this nation afford vacillation when the damning facts have been counterchecked and confirmed many times over?  Will the ends of justice be met by delaying punishing those guilty, however rich and powerful? Having been economical with the truth, the PM has a problem exercising his moral authority and/or credibility to govern. Instead of facing further humiliation in the courts, the best option for Mian Nawaz Sharif (and Pakistan) is for him to step down. His associates and colleagues threatening the SC are not doing him any favour, after all it is the SC which will definitively write the final chapter “for whom the bell tolls”.


The writer is a defense and security analysts


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