The 60 days of the JIT

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Is Nemesis lurking around the corner?

 

 
Every cloud has a silver lining. In the case of the 4/20 judgment in Panama money laundering case, there is not only silver lining but whole lightning giving hope for a better future.

 

The much awaited decision in the mega corruption case involving the Prime Minister and his immediate family members has finally come about in a split judgment opening floodgates of ominous possibilities. Two senior most judges – who are in line of succession to be Chief Justice of Pakistan in due course when the highest judicial office falls vacant – have passed what indeed shall be remembered as a historic judgment.

 

The senior most judge of the 5-judge bench of the Supreme Court (Justice Asif Saeed Khosa) has minced no words in declaring that the prime minister is neither Sadiq nor Ameen and that the Election Commission of Pakistan should de-notify the PM and unseat him as a member of the National Assembly to disqualify him to be PM. Second senior most judge on the bench Mr Justice Gulzar Ahmed has held the PM liar and dishonest.
The other three judges (while not differing with the observations of their senior colleagues regarding Prime Minister not being Sadiq and Ameen) did not want to rush to a conclusion. In order to carry justice and fair-play home, they want the money laundering charges and money trail to be investigated by a Joint Investigation Team to submit its report in 60 days with bimonthly progress report to a special bench of the Supreme Court.

As expected the judgment has opened yet another Pandora’s Box on the political front. While both former President Asif Zardari as leader of PPP and PTI chief Imran Khan have demanded Prime Minister’s  resignation forthwith as he has lost all moral and legal ground to continue in office. No two views about it as this is a popular perception too.

Contrarily PML-N leaders have come out in overwhelmingly deceptive victory euphoria on what they call judicial verdict that has white washed their prime minister into a new born babe of all the corruption dirt levelled by the opposition. Whatever, PML-N leaders definitely had some reasons to be happy, to distribute sweets and profuse fireworks to optically pep up sagging morale at its lowest ebb.

 

Notwithstanding the fact that Prime Minister now has the ugly albatross of dishonesty and corruption around his neck, courtesy of the two senior most judges, the agreement of the five to have a joint investigation team to probe corruption and money laundering charges, if seen correctly, puts him in the bracket of the notorious Uzair Baloch and the like. However, it gives an opportunity to the Prime Minister to establish his otherwise credentials, if any.

 

One would not subscribe to the conspiracy theory that behind the PML-N euphoria was some premonition of what they considered as happier tiding. Indeed, if one recalls, the Prime Minister had – willy-nilly – initially agreed to constitute a commission following Panama leak in response of opposition’s demand for him to resign. This offer, however, was rejected by Imran Khan. According to PML-N circles now institution of Joint Investigation Team is the old wine initially offered by the PM in a new bottle-a sort of victory and a vindication.

The judgment being a lengthy document of over 500 pages will remain a matter of debate and discussion for the next few months taking us nearer to the next election. In between, however, the Prime Minister’s fate shall remain on the anvil. Many severe and legitimate reservations mar the start, progress and ultimate fate of the findings of JIT. However, the JIT will fill in the gaps in the evidence produced so far.

 

First question that has already been raised is how one could expect JIT to do justice when the 5-judge Supreme Court bench judgment has already passed serious strictures against two major anti-corruption agencies – the NAB and FIA – for their earlier criminal negligence to the serious corruption charges against the PM and his Finance Minister pertaining to the case of Hudaibiya Paper Mills. What amounted to an outrageous act of affront was the obduracy of the NAB Chairman before the bench when he claimed that he was right in not proceeding against Mr Ishaq Dar accused of money laundering for the PM and his family in Hudaibiya case.

 

The composition of JIT itself has been questioned. According to the judgment the JIT will be headed by an officer of FIA with the rank of ADG with its members from Military Intelligence, ISI, NAB, SECP and SBP. It will be appointed and notified by Ministry of Interior. Except nominee of MI who would be directly responsible to the Army Chief, rest of the members of JIT would belong to various ministries under respective ministers working under the PM and responsible to him. Hence their impartiality and independence would neither be here nor there. In a country like Pakistan where pecking order is the name of the game, it seems to be a joke to imagine a grade 19/20 officer questioning the PM or his sons.

Now coming back to the silver lining, instead of Panama gate judgment closing the chapter, it would be inflicting slow death – or, rather, the beginning of the end – of the House of Sharifs. During the 60-day period and more after wards until polls, the opposition parties would have a field day. They would have solid grounds to bagger the longest ruling family to an extent that by the beginning of 2018, PML-N would have drowned under the plethora of serious charges against its PM, his family and the government – including its finance minister.

 

Nemesis is perhaps around the corner. Having lost all moral and legal ground, the best course for the Prime Minister would be to call it a day. Saner way out for him would be to resign instead of submitting himself before JIT like a criminal. There is no doubt that his lawyers hardly had any evidence to prove accumulation of such wealth through legal and fair means. Had they any, the judgment would have given him a clean bill of health and pronounced him Sadiq and Ameen and not made him the Pakistani Escobar.