Mohammed Talukder- Bangladesh
In a unanimous decision, the five-judge larger bench of Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from holding public office. The decision came after a year-long corruption probe into his family wealth, cutting short his third stint in power. The top court has ordered National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file a reference against the accused in an accountability court in six weeks, directing for the trial to be concluded within six months. The bench has also requested Chief Justice of Pakistan of Pakistan to nominate a judge to oversee the proceedings of the accountability court.
The Friday court decision was unprecedented and the first of its kind in the history of the country when a prime minster was ousted on the article 62 and 63 of the constitution. Article 62 and 63 of the constitution of Pakistan decide who is ‘Saadiq’ and ‘Amin’ (truthful and trustworthy) to be a member of parliament. Although in 2013 then Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was also judged disqualified by the apex-court on the contempt of court charges. Gilani refused to write letter to Swiss authorities to open graft cases against then President and his political master Asif Ali Zardari.
Legal experts believe that Supreme Court decision on Panama Papers case leaves limited legal remedies for Nawaz Sharif, the ousted prime minister, and his family members, expect for filing a review petition. It is also reported in local media that Nawaz Sharif was disqualified for life as the court decision did not specify the period of disqualification from holding the public office. The court decision had also debilitated the future of his daughter maryam Nawaz, long seen as his political heir. His two sons Hasan and Huasin Nawaz who also hold British citizenship will have to face court battles.
Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (N) or PMLN still holds majority in National Assembly and after his disqualification the ruling party is in the process of choosing Sharif’s successor as leader of the house. It would also have to elect a new president for the party in the coming days. However, it is clear that the party would complete its full five-year term ending on June 4, next year before entering the race for the next general elections.
From the last general election Pakistan has started witnessing a different kind of politics. The statuesquo jointly administered by Sharif’s PML (N) and principle opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of former President Asif Ali Zardari was broken down by a relatively new political party Pakistan Tehrike Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan, a former cricketer turned politician had won the second highest votes in the last parliamentary elections.
Both PML (N) and PPP are blamed by Khan’s PTI for playing a friendly opposition and protect each other’s corruption when out of power and protect each other’s interest while in power. Contrary to established political practice in last decade, PTI occupied the role of vacant real opposition party and brought the Panama Papers case against Sharif for investigation in the Supreme Court that ultimately led to the Friday’s court decision. After a successful conclusion of a year long court battle elated Imran khan, who was one of the three petitioners in the case, said the court decision marked "a great day ... This verdict has strengthened democracy. It has furthered Pakistan's democratic evolution."
Khan also called the apex court's decision "the beginning" for a new Pakistan."Everyone will be held accountable now. This is just the beginning," said Khan.
Pakistan’s terminally corrupt government system has long been ignoring the structural problems that lead to corruption in the country. According to recent transparency International report, Pakistan stands at 116 out of 176 countries and is ranked ‘high’ in terms of the level of corruption. The breakup of statuesquo in Pakistan’s politics has brought up the Systemic corruption and organised money laundering as a big political issue in Pakistan.
During the approximately yearlong hearing of panama case Supreme Court of the country observed and in stern remark stated that the state institutions responsible to check the mega corruption have now become paralysed and are now helping their political masters in hiding their corrupt practices. On the other hand, after this decision ruling PMLN may compel the judiciary of the country to dispose across the board accountability of Politicians belonging to other political parties. This is not a good news for PML (N)’s friendly-opposition PPP and especially its Chairman Asif Ali Zardari once bitter opponent of Nawaz Sharif. Zaradri Spent more than eight years in prison during two previous governments of Nawaz Sharif on charges of corruption was finally released by military ruler Pervez Mushrraf in 2004.
The historical court verdict came at time when Pakistan is facing many internal and external challenges. After last few years of successful security operations against terrorist groups across the country, incidents of terrorism once again started occurring more frequently. Daily firing and skirmishes on the border with India have been a norm from decades now security challenges have also surfaced along the borders with Afghanistan and Iran. Pakistan is also facing a dilemma on siding with whom in the recent Gulf crisis between Saudi Arabia-led block and Qatar.
Suffice it to say that this historical judgment by the Supreme Court of the country is an opportunity for Pakistan to set the future course of this resourceful but poorly managed country of South Asia. With new precedence Pakistan may emerge as a genuine democracy with rule of law which will not discriminate between rich and poor. This can only be achieved through across the board accountability of the rich and mighty politicians, bureaucrats, generals and crony capitalists of the country.
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