Army, SC intervene to snub dissent, doubts about Panama case JIT

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  • Army commanders assure their representatives, who will be part of JIT for Panama case probe, would play their ‘due role’ in ensuring fair, transparent investigation
  • CJP Mian Saqib Nisar terms Imran Khan an ‘extraordinary citizen’ whose influence could help boost country’s morale

 

Two major state institutions—the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) and Pakistan Army—on Monday made an unusual intervention to snub the increasing dissent, criticism and conspiracy theories being pushed following the Panama Leaks case verdict.

While the top brass of the army met here at the General Headquarters to reassure that the military would play its ‘due role’ to carry out the investigation into the Panama inquiry, the top judge of the Apex Court also urged Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan to help counter the rumour mills busy tarnishing the image of the top state institutions.

According to an official handout of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the senior army commanders met at the 202nd Corps Commanders Conference to assure that the army’s representatives to be part of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) for Panama case probe would play their “due role” in ensuring fair and transparent investigation.

Perhaps the meeting was held in wake of criticism by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan who had raised serious concerns over the involvement of representatives of the top notch intelligence agencies in the JIT.

Noted defence analyst Brigadier (R) Ghazanfar Ali says the statement issued, following the corps commanders conference, was a strong message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the public at large, as well as the state institutions, that the investigation, as desired by the apex court, would have full backing of the military command and all efforts would be made to make it transparent and impartial.

“Yes, perhaps one objective was to address the questions raised by Aitzaz Ahsan and some other analysts that the father of DG(I) has been working with Ch Munir and the officer also have indirect relations with the ruling family,” he said.

He said that the military command also wanted to send a message to the other institutions that have to make nominations to the JIT, including the State Bank whose chairman has been appointed by Prime Minister despite some questions against him.

“Moreover, another recipient of the message would be the FBR chairman who has been given another extension only a few days back. Moreover, FIA whose additional director has to head the JIT must be another party which is under Ch Nisar,” he added.

He said while the Military Intelligence (MI) is directly under the army chief, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) works under the PM, though the army still has some influence over it.

He said the message was sent to public as the JITs in past have failed to deliver goods on several occasions.

“Remember the JIT on Model Town killings? Its report was never made public. So was the result in other cases. The army has also sent a message to the prime minister in between the lines that no pressure tactic would work now and the army would ensure the order of the court would be implemented in letter and spirit,” he added.

As per the Supreme Court order, the JIT is to include officials from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the State Bank of Pakistan, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI), and it will be led by an assistant director general level officer from the FIA.

“(The) forum also discussed Panama case decision by Supreme Court with special reference to Joint Investigation Team (JIT). The forum pledged that the institution, through its members in the JIT, shall play its due role in a legal and transparent manner, fulfilling confidence reposed by the apex court,” the ISPR said.

It was an unusual meeting of the top military brass by all means since the previous Corps Commanders moot had held its routine meeting only 11 days back, on April 13. So the commanders must have met unusually by all means as no security situation is being faced by the country right now and Operation Raddul Fasaad is moving smoothly.

Earlier in the day, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, during hearing a case regarding illegal encroachment by land in Bani Gala—brought to his notice by Imran Khan—termed Khan an ‘extraordinary citizen’ whose influence could help boost the morale of the country.

“Being a leader of the nation you carry a major responsibility. You are not an ordinary individual… Your one call may cause chaos or stability in the country,” Justice Nisar said during the hearing of the case. The CJP had taken suo motu notice after the PTI chief wrote a letter to the former, seeking his intervention in the matter.

“Your words can move the nation to look at things positively,” Justice Nisar said, adding, “You are not an ordinary citizen, people look up to you.”

Briefly touching upon the Panamagate verdict, while in the court, Justice Nisar said, “Dissenting verdicts are given everywhere in the world but nowhere are they discussed as much as in Pakistan.”

“Everyone is supposed to respect the courts and their decisions, including you,” Nisar told Khan.

Khan also praised the five-member Panamagate bench, saying that he stood behind the country’s institutions.

“People come to courts looking for an institution they can trust. It is up to us to rid the air of distrust and move forward,” Justice Nisar remarked during the proceedings.

On a lighter note, while reminiscing about their shared past, the chief justice reminded Khan that he had played cricket under Khan’s captaincy during their time at Atchison College.

“Once you had hit the ball so hard that it flew all the way beyond the church premises,” the top judge recounted.

Analysts see these remarks in wake of a strong and spontaneous campaign in social media, targeting the integrity of some judges of the apex court.

Former Supreme Court Bar Association president Advocate Syed Ali Zafar, while talking to Pakistan Today, said that the CJP wanted Khan to use his stature to help strengthen state institutions.

“I can’t really say about the context of Chief Justice’s remark. But from what I gather, maybe Chief Justice was giving an advice to Imran Khan. CJ Saqib Nisar wanted to use the occasion to tell Imran that since he is a popular leader, he should look at the bigger picture and try his best to strengthen the institutions of the state”.

Advocate Zafar stressed that may be the intention behind the remarks was to tell Imran Khan that his words have consequences.

Talking to the media following the hearing, Imran Khan said: “I am grateful to the chief justice for taking notice of a matter of public interest, which I wrote about in a letter to him.” “We stand with the justice system and the nation has high hopes attached to the judiciary,” he concluded.