Panamagate: Time to Face up the Reality?

Had an issue like Panama Papers leaks confronted a leader next door in India or in Europe, he or she would have faded into history immediately. But in Pakistan, unfortunately, the ruling party is equating the inquiry into the assets of an incumbent prime minister to an attack on democracy.

Posted on 07/12/17
By Imtiaz Gul | Via Daily Times
(Image via 24 News)
(Image via 24 News)

If the Joint Investigation Team’s (JIT) finding about two declarations submitted by Maryam Nawaz is correct, she will be facing criminal prosecution on account of forgery.


For many, this finding has affirmed apprehensions regarding our ruling elite’s propensity to lie, cheat and obfuscate facts.


These apprehensions stands in contrast to the way Maryam Nawaz had conducted herself a few days ago after her deposition before the JIT. “What is the charge against us,” she had then asked emphatically. The JIT’s findings come as a direct response to her question. With evidence on forgery of documents in front of them, the JIT may have been left with little doubt to conclude that Maryam Nawaz submitted fake documents and misled the Supreme Court on the matter of ownership of London flats.


This is a moment to ponder for all those who had started fancying her as the future prime minister candidate. Regardless of whether or not she holds a public office, she bears responsibility if forgery has really been committed insofar as she had a media advisory role at the Prime Minister’s Office.


The second lesson Pakistanis should draw from the JIT report concerns what now seems to be fiction woven around the letter attributed to the Qatari prince. The account of the letter now seems to be a trick played on the Pakistani nation. How can conscientious Pakistanis live with such elites?


Ayan Ali’s arrest had just exposed a tiny tip of the iceberg of money laundered out of Pakistan. We’ve have also heard about a former Prime Minister using his nephews under the cover of official protocol to smuggle dollars out of Pakistan.


The third lesson worth considering relates to the oft-hurled charge of the military establishment’s long hand behind the country’s political crises. The JIT findings have discredited allegations and insinuations made by PML-N leaders that the establishment was worked against the ruling Sharif family.


For too long have Pakistani politicians hidden behind the ‘over-reach’ of the security establishment. True, the establishment has been meddling with issues of governance pertaining to internal security and foreign policy. Pakistan’s international isolation also stems from policies adopted during long stints of Generals Ayub, Yahya, Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf.


But the key question staring us all in the face today is whether the security establishment’s ingress into affairs of governance absolves politicians of corrupt practices and fraudulent conduct?


There is no reason why Pakistan will sink into a constitutional crisis if the prime minister steps down. After all, democracy and the Parliament do not hinge on the fate of a single person alone.


Secondly, even if the Supreme Court finds a way around direct disqualification of the prime minister, it would be tragic if PML-N leaders – besides the few die-hard loyalists like the two Khwajas and the likes of Talal Chaudhry and Daniyal Aziz – still choose to stand behind Maryam Nawaz as the next party leader and, potentially, the candidate for prime ministership. This would raise a huge question as to whether this unfortunate nation – already plundered by its elites – deserves only those implicated in cheating incidents as its leaders.


Would all those who cock-crowed in defense of the Sharif family since the Panama Papers leaks now think of giving precedence to justice and accountability for public money that could have been spent on provision of clean drinking water and education and healthcare facilities.


Little will change in the country until the new generation of ruling elites act with conscience and submit to the rule of law, and both civilians and bureaucracy stop singing to the tunes of the military establishment. Politicians should bear in mind that they will not be able to hold the military establishment accountable as long as they have things to hide of their own.


We need our bureaucrats, politicians and those in civil society to be non-conformist so they don’t take democracy in literal terms only and keep (ab)using it for personal gains.


Had an issue like Panama Papers leaks confronted a leader next door in India or in Europe, he or she would have faded into history immediately. But here, unfortunately, the ruling party politicians are equating the inquiry into the assets of an incumbent prime minister to an attack on democracy. Would they please stop behaving this way and face the reality?


The writer is Editor, Strategic Affairs at the Daily Times. Click here to go to the original.

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