More to come
By debarring Nawaz Sharif from heading his own party, the judges of the apex court have thrown another spanner in the works. In a rather unusual manner – unprecedented in our chequered legal and constitutional history – the judges in their wisdom have declared Sharif’s steps as PML-N president illegal retrospectively.
This has created a wave of constitutional uncertainty. Even decisions taken by dictators like general Zia ul Haq and Pervez Musharrf were not declared null and void ab intio. In fact some of them were made part of the constitution to avoid a legal and constructional vacuum that would have engendered political certainty.
Dictator Zia inserted articles 62 and 63 in the constitution for his own nefarious purposes. But Sharif refused to strike it down through the eighteenth amendment for the sake of expediency. The judiciary is now using the very same articles to blackball errant politicians.
Not only have the Senate elections been put into jeopardy, some recent bye-elections and the office of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is open to legal challenges as well.
Even decisions taken by dictators like general Zia ul Haq and Pervez Musharrf were not declared null and void ab intio
The tickets awarded to PML-N candidates for the Senate elections – just round the corner – by Sharif as president of the party were revalidated by the chairman Raja Zafar ul Haq. But the ECP (Election Commission of Pakistan) rubbed more salt in the PML-N’s wounds by disallowing it.
Now the PML-N ticket holders have no recourse but to contest the Senate elections as independents, with its appended complications.
Sharif termed the recent judgment against him as another manifestation of ‘the policy of revenge and malice’, being pursued against him. The CJP (Chief Justice of Pakistan) Mian Saqib Nisar indirectly responding to Sharif‘s diatribes has denied any personal bias and has termed the apex court’s decisions solely to uphold the law and the constitution.
It is rather unfortunate that just a few months away from the general elections the country is gripped in a wave of political uncertainty. Ironically the judges have laid themselves bare to the criticism that their judgments and remarks are person specific, thereby resulting in dubiety.
Instead of the judges exercising judicial restraint in their remarks the media has been singled out for quoting the judges out of context. Justice Asif Saeed Khosa heading the Panamagate bench has recently clarified that his observation in the verdict regarding the Sicilian mafia were not targeted at Sharif. Nonetheless the clarification six months too late has already inflicted a blow.
The former prime minister (and now also the ex-president of the PML-N) was ousted on the basis of an ‘Iqama‘ by virtue of which he was allegedly receiving salary from his son that remained undisclosed by him . Sharif claims that he never received any salary.
Whatever the merit of the case, the former prime minister has taken full advantage of the fact that he was not convicted for corruption for owning unexplained expensive property abroad but merely on a technicality. Resultantly he contends in a rather self-serving manner that this was due to lack of any solid evidence against him.
Sharif and his progenies are in the dock in the NAB (National Accountability Bureau) court for various cases of corruption emanating from the Panama Papers. By midyear he is likely to be convicted in these cases as well.
However even before things take full circle the damage has already been done. The former prime minister an astute and experienced politician has fought back. By taking a confrontational line he has politically resurrected himself and his party.
His tumultuous reception by party stalwarts at the Punjab House Islamabad was perhaps meant to demonstrate his strong grip on the PML-N. Recent bye-elections and mammoth public meetings addressed by him are a strong testimony of his popularity amongst his supporters.
Sharif’s ostensible popularity is the manifestation of disconnect between the legal and the political. This is not a new phenomenon germane only to Pakistan.
Back in July 1977 General Zia ul Haq ousted Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as prime minister. Theoretically speaking Bhutto beleaguered by a popular opposition alliance’s (PNA) street agitation against him, he should have been history.
But soon Zia was unnerved by the defiant ousted prime minister’s large rallies and acerbic narrative. In the end analysis the wily dictator sensing a clear and present danger to his scheme of things got rid of the PPP leader literally through a judicial murder.
The extremely biased judges who were doing the dictator’s bidding by and large unanimously discredited are lost in the annals of history. But Bhutto still lives in the people’s hearts. Since his hanging by Zia in April 1979 his party has been elected thrice in power.
Admittedly Sharif is no Bhutto. However simply hounding him out cannot eliminate him.
Whether he remains an office holder of the PML-N or not he will continue to call the shots within the party and gathering support. Notwithstanding the merit in properly elected party leadership the personality driven politics of the sub continental version cannot be simply be set aside.
Whether it is HasinaWajid, Khalida Zia in Bangladesh or the Nehru Gandhi dynasty in India or for that matter the Bandaranaike descendants in Sri Lanka the impoverished masses of south Asia keep on reelecting them.
Sharif’s ostensible popularity is the manifestation of disconnect between the legal and the political
The only way to eliminate entrenched politicians is through the hustings. The Congress party in India thanks to its poor performance badly lost to a party headed by a person of humble beginnings.
Similarly the PPP is now restricted to Sindh and has little prospects of forming a government at the centre in the next elections. Mainly thanks to its own ineptness.
Sharif might have met the same fate had he not been disqualified in the manner that he was. This does not mean to say that politicians should be above reproach and be allowed to get away with murder.
In Sharif’s case he has succeeded in selling the narrative that he is a victim of a grand person specific conspiracy. He erroneously contends that the peoples’ courts can only judge him.
In all probability he will hit the slammer in a series of NAB cases against him. His younger brother and political heir apparent for the time being Shahbaz Sharif, is tipped to head the party. But the elder Sharif will keep on calling the shots from wherever he is.