South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

The clash between de jure (the constitutional system) and de facto (the deep state epitomised by the JIT) predicted and feared by many has taken place in the form of the judicial coup.
The de facto has dressed up as the de jure.
The post Panama verdict political scenario is turning out to be different from what the putschists had envisaged.
Independent legal experts in the country and abroad have expressed serious reservations over the zeal of the court in adopting a short cut to get rid of an elected Prime Minister.

In the first decision of the Panama bench of the Supreme Court issued on April 20, 2017 one of the judges had said in his written judgement that the Prime Minister will be called and questioned if the issue of his disqualification arises.
But that was never to be.
Apart from giving serious and strange adverse remarks that were more part of a political attack on Nawaz Sharif than of any legal value the judges of the Panama bench failed to justify the use of WhatsApp calls by the Registrar of the Supreme Court instead of using a normal phone meant for official communication in choosing the members of Joint Investigation Committee (JIT).
The Court also remained shy of disclosing the name of the person who leaked the photo of Hussain Nawaz, the Prime Minister’s son during his appearance before the JIT.
It is generally believed that the person may belong to the premier intelligence agency connected with Army that was the moving spirit behind the JIT.
Similarly MNS and his family were originally being investigated for Panama off shore companies but ultimately that wasn’t the basis of his disqualification.
He was disqualified for allegedly undeclared receivable salary (which isn’t a very big amount and which he didn’t receive) from his son’s company in Dubai on the basis of a stay visa (iqama) of UAE.
The fatal flaw in the Panama verdict is the judicial overkill on a very narrow legal basis through a questionable process in a case that had clear political overtones.

The huge turn up of people and wide reception of the former Prime Minister during his journey on the Grand Trunk Road from Islamabad to Lahore clearly demonstrates that people in the heartland of Punjab aren’t convinced by the verdict, the loud noises made by the cheerleaders of the creeping coup notwithstanding.
This is Nawaz Sharif’s political base that brought him into power and it remains intact.
That explains why elected members of Parliament of his part have stood behind Nawaz Sharif and have not deserted him much to the dismay of the putschists.

Now all the above doesn’t imply that the PML-N government was a paragon of a democratic dispensation.
In this space I have previously criticised it for putting its back on the Parliament.
The present government has made its own contribution in weakening the system by marginalising the Parliament and other constitutional forums.
The CCI meeting which has to be held within 90 days would some times be held after 200 days.
There haven’t been regular meetings of the Cabinet’s Defense Committee.
The Parliament and most of the political parties stood behind the Constitutional system in the face of an onslaught on it by anti-democratic forces in 2014 but the government failed to mend its ways.
Had it done so there would be no space for a judicial coup.

Be that as it may, the first fault line in civil-military relations appeared in the initial days of the Nawaz government when Nawaz Sharif decided to put the former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf on trial for abrogating the Constitution.
The military was obviously not amused and we saw the prolonged and noisy sit in by Imran Khan and TUQ in Islamabad with the declared aim of overthrowing the government.
Musharraf was arraigned before the special tribunal but the court let him go abroad for “medical treatment“’ and the crisis was defused.

The other bone of contention is relations with India.
Normalizing relations with India and starting trade with it was part of election manifesto of Nawaz Sharif in 2013 and people voted for him.
He made consistent efforts to implement it but couldn’t do it.
The security establishment has not only different views on it but it refuses to put up with a different policy pursued by the civil governments.
So Nawaz Sharif government had to face the music as the security establishment supported his opponents.
The most recent development that aggravated the already precarious civil-military relationship is the fallout of the escalating political and military confrontation in the Middle East.
Despite his close relations with the ruling Saudi monarchy Nawaz Sharif refused to send Pakistani troops to take part in the Middle Eastern conflicts.
He was in favor of taking the issue back to Pakistani Parliament, which already had passed a resolution against sending Pakistani troops to Yemen.
But General Raheel Sharif, the former COAS who had committed to head the proposed military alliance of Muslim (actually Sunni) countries had different ideas and this is supposed to be the last proverbial straw.
Saad Rafique, a sitting minister of the present government attacked UAE government in a public statement for being part of the effort to destabilise the government.

Nawaz Sharif during his mass mobilisation campaign has made it clear that the present campaign isn’t about him or his government.
It is about the future of Pakistan.
He is talking about a grand national dialogue for shaping a new social contract to give a new direction to the country.
He is right in the sense that Pakistan is becoming ungovernable due to the worsening civil-military relations.
The most important question is who will rule Pakistan? The elected representatives of the people or the security establishment? Mobilisation of the people in Punjab is crucial for establishing civilian supremacy as unlike the voices from periphery the voice of the core of the state can’t be ignored.

By: Afrasiab Khattak


Updated On: August 12, 2017