The unforgettable disqualification

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Setting it straight

The claims of being ‘elected’ and ‘preservers of democracy’ are still being chanted by supporters, but the judgment has put a huge question mark on the validity of these assertions

 

“Be lion-mettled, proud; and take no care

Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are:

Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until

Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill

Shall come against him.”

The Third Apparition had guaranteed Macbeth of his kingship through this prophecy. Macbeth, however, failed to realise one simple fact that prophesising is merely an act of foreseeing… the future that is bound to happen. Who would have thought that the Great Birnam Wood would be the passage of his enemy’s army and that they would cut large branches to hide themselves and, in turn, fulfil the prophecy?

“That will never be” was what Macbeth had said to himself.

“Who can impress the forest, bid the tree

Unfix his earth-bound root? Sweet bodements! good!”

The way Macbeth mistook the prophecy as a source of reassurance instead of a warning is what led him falling into the trap of illusion.

Several decades later, there existed a nation whose ruler was not only ‘lion-mettled’ but also had lion as his political party’s election symbol. He too, like Macbeth, had put his mind at rest after becoming certain of his imperishable supremacy. He too, like Macbeth, was convinced that Birnam Wood cannot move, for he had never seen trees moving before. He too, like Macbeth, held the unwavering view that no one can unfix the roots, for he knew that the real fault lay in the very foundations of the land he governed.

But trees were uprooted, the forest was transposed, and the precedence was set.

It all happened in a country whose denizens had lost all hopes of being served justice long time ago; where judiciary, despite being an independent institution, was adamantly perceived to be subservient to parliament; where disqualifying a premier over charges of moral and fiscal corruption has come no less than a shock for the entire South Asian region.

Apologists did not let this opportunity slip away and indiscreetly accredited the premier for presenting himself before the courts for accountability. It is pertinent to mention here that he did not present himself, but was rather dragged into courts after months of resistance and diffidence. The whole nation is a witness to the reluctance on his part which was evident from the hostility that was shown towards a democratic move of the equally ‘elected’ opposition.

What presenting oneself for trial actually means must be learnt from Richard Nixon’s presidency in the United States. Although he, too, initially rejected accusations of wrongdoing hurled at him as a consequence of the Watergate scandal and vowed to stay in office, he had to give in to the circumstances after losing political and popular support and ultimately resigned in August 1974 before he could be removed by incontrovertible impeachment that was underway. The dissenting notes from only two judges in the bench of five in the earlier verdict and formation of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) were, in actuality, the modes of granting time to the prime minister to resign with dignity before he could be disqualified and forcibly removed.

From equating women supporters of the PTI with prostitutes to calling the all-famous and much-needed dharnas meet-up points, our honourable government forgot how it was the duty of an honest opposition to hold sit-ins and protests and arraigning those in power in case of corruption and dishonesty. The opposition, in general, and the PTI, in particular, provided the first ever manifestation of what real opposition is like. The advocates of the former prime minister and his family reserve the right to raise objections to the verdict being made with reference to Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 instead of by proving the charges of corruption. It must be clarified, however, that the leader of the house was declared guilty owing to the lies he uttered regarding his estate. Thus he was convicted not only for hiding his assets but also for being perfidious about them.

“The bench highlighted the potential falsity and discrepancies present in the record provided by the concerned respondents before the JIT”, opined a prominent advocate on condition of anonymity. “The judgment contains a reference to inter alia beneficial ownership of the Respondent No. 6 in Avenfield Apartments, use of the Calibri Font prior to its commercial availability, lack of any corroboration of the content of the Qatari Letter, unexplained increase in assets, and other inconsistencies surfacing in the recorded statements of the concerned respondents.”

The advocate answered the concerns of the PML-N supporters regarding the basis on which the premier has been disqualified.

“It is, however, interesting to note that the bench’s analysis of the aforementioned discrepancies culminated in the conclusion that prima facie, a triable case is made out against the concerned respondents under the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance, 1999 and none of these have been made for the basis for Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification. Alternatively, the bench focused on the employment of the prime minister as a chairman of the board of Capital FZE and went on to consider whether the non-disclosure of the said employment in nomination papers for the 2013 elections constitutes as a breach of Section 12(2) of the Representation of the People Act, 1976. The bench answered this question in the affirmative and professed that the said non-disclosure is tantamount to furnishing a false declaration on solemn affirmation, which disentitles the Prime Minister from being called “honest” for the purposes of Article 62(1)(f) of the constitution, 1973 and Section 99(1)(f) of the Representation of the People Act, 1976.”

The unanimous verdict of the bench of five judges has left the whole nation flabbergasted because of being the first example of its own kind. The claims of being ‘elected’ and ‘preservers of democracy’ are still being chanted by supporters, but the judgment has put a huge question mark on the validity of these assertions. Despite the total voter turnout in 2013 elections being 55.02 percent, the huge portion of Pakistan’s population living without national identity cards and, therefore, the right to vote cannot be overlooked. Although over 46.2 million votes were cast in total, only 40 percent of those polled in Lahore’s NA-122 alone could not be authenticated, thus casting aspersions on the authenticity of others as well. Thence, as per the simple calculation, the 14.8 million votes polled in favour of the PML-N not only are dubitable but also fail to represent the majority. In the given scenario, how could the ruler ever proclaim to be elected by the majority and be entrusted as a saviour of the democracy that was to be of, by and for the people?

This is precisely what Plato had feared the most about democracy. It has the capability of turning into anarchy within no time because the lust of freedom that is developed in the ruler by his subjects would not let him rest. It makes democracy immoderate in its very nature as the political demagogues seek opportunities to expose themselves as tyrants. What convinces the ruler to become fearlessly corrupt despite the power of choosing leaders still residing with the common man? It is the privilege of immunity from accountability that turns them into despots and ensures that might is always right.

The judgment was quite clear in its context until it was fogged by some journalists and all prominent leaders of the ruling party in that the premier has not been disqualified for life as it was not stated anywhere in the verdict. “It has not been explicitly stated in the judgment”, elaborated the advocate, “but it refers to Section 99(1)(f) of the Representation of the People Act, 1976, which provides that a person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of an Assembly unless he is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate, i.e. “sadiq” and “ameen”. Now, whenever Nawaz Sharif will go to file his nomination papers in the Election Commission, he will be rebuffed with the Supreme Court’s declaration of him being dishonest.” Nonetheless, he appositely mentioned the only way out for Nawaz Sharif by adding, “The declaration can be revoked only if the same number of judges or more expound it in a judgment.”

With the initial speculations of assumed bias of the Supreme Court in favour of the government being buried forever, no one knows how many Pandora’s boxes will open post-verdict.

The friendly relations that Nawaz Sharif enjoyed with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi are not unknown to anyone. Withal, the raising of the Kashmir dispute on various international forums, including the 71st United Nations General Assembly session, earned him immense regard and support from Pakistan as well as Kashmir.

But there is no denying the fact that his disqualification is worrisome for India as was told by Vishva Gaurav, a renowned Indian journalist associated with the Times of India group.

“The relations between Sharif and Modi, as reflected by the flexibility extended to each other as well as their visits, were favourable for India. We knew it was not possible to use Pakistan against India as long as Sharif was in power. His disqualification has, however, raised many concerns for India given that strategy of the new premier for India and China would remain to be uncertain for some time. Therefore, it is too early to predict whether his de-seating will have adverse or beneficial effects on India-Pakistan relations.” He, however, did not forget to extend his felicitations and added: “The precedence set by the Supreme Court of Pakistan must be lauded and followed by others in the region.”

The uncertainties hovering around the current political fabric of Pakistan regarding its fate are to remain for a while until a path is set in accordance with the emerging vision of strengthening the institutions of this country. The curse had to be broken and this country, like all others, was bound to have a beginning. It is from this decision onwards that Pakistan has been put on its path to sovereignty and true independence as from now on, no one would rely on a prophecy that has proven right for almost all the predecessors. Now no leader can ever warrant:

“Rebellion’s head, rise never till the wood

Of Birnam rise, and our high-placed Macbeth

Shall live the lease of nature, pay his breath

To time and mortal custom.”