South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Pakistan plunged into a political uncertainty after the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The apex court also barred him from holding any public office for life. No Prime Minister of Pakistan has ever completed full five-year tenure. Their tenure was either cut short by military or judiciary. The ruling indicates independence of judiciary and its authority. At the same time the judgment is also a setback for the democracy and especially when Pakistan is facing serious crises, internally and externally. In the case of Pakistan, weakening of democracy means advantage to army. The ruling also came at a time when Pakistan’s security scenario is improving and winning battle against terrorists.

The debate in Pakistan now is who will be next Prime Minister. As Pakistan Muslim League (N) has a clear majority in the National Assembly, a new leader’s name will be announced. Nawaz’s party has a mass base in Punjab and in Pakistan whosoever sweep elections in Punjab can rule Pakistan. The person happiest with the verdict is surely Imran Khan, former Pakistani cricket captain and founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Imran’s party along with allies are ruling Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) is in power in Sindh and PML (N) along with other friendly parties are ruling Balochistan.

In 2012, SCP had ousted then PM Yousuf Raza Gilani over contempt of court charge for refusing to reopen a corruption case against then sitting President Asif Ali Zardari. This is third time Nawaz is ousted from the post of PM. In 1993, he was dismissed by then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan over allegations of graft and in 1999 then Army chief Pervez Musharraf ousted him and took power. It also indicates how fragile Pakistan’s democracy is. Democracy needs to be stabilized in Pakistan. Democratic Pakistan is always good for the Pakistanis and also for the neighbouring countries.

The apex court categorically said, “It is hereby declared that having failed to disclose his un-withdrawn receivables constituting assets from Capital FZE Jebel Ali, UAE in his nomination papers filed for the General Elections held in 2013 in terms of Section 12(2)(f) of the Representation of the People Act, 1976 (ROPA), and having furnished a false declaration under solemn affirmation respondent No. 1 Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is not honest in terms of Section 99(f) of ROPA and Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 and therefore he is disqualified to be a Member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament).” Apex Court also disqualified finance minister Ishaq Dar and Capt. (Retd.) Muhammad Safdar, member of National Assembly, saying they are unfit for office. Nawaz’s daughter Asma is married to son of Ishaq Dar.

The allegation against Nawaz and his family came into light when the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) published the Panama Papers, exposing tax evasions by few politicians across the world through off-shore accounts and shell companies. The list consisted name of Nawaz’s family members. Opposition parties launched agitation against Nawaz since his name appeared in the Panama Papers. Imran Khan and few others petitioned the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s ruling was not totally unexpected. For last few days, Nawaz Sharif held series of meetings with his close confidents, party colleagues. Nawaz’s brother and Punjab’s CM Shahbaz Sharif will in all probability will be made PM eventually. His name is not in the Panama Papers. In the meanwhile, an interim PM will be nominated. Defense minister Khawaja Asif is the frontrunner. Nawaz had serious differences with his interior minister Nisar Khan.

A five-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa also ordered a fresh investigation into the Sharif family’s wealth by National Accountability Bureau (NAB). They directed NAB to prepare and file a reference within six weeks against Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, Hussain Nawaz Sharif, Hassan Nawaz Sharif and  Capt (Retd) Muhammed Safdar. They also directed the chairman of NAB Qamar Zaman Chaudhary to not to be part of the investigating team as he is close to Nawaz Sharif. The language used in the judgment is too harsh. Imran Khan said, It is a big victory for the people. It’s a message to the corrupt”. He said the ruling gives hope to Pakistan. Since last national assembly elections held in 2013, Imran Khan was consistently opposing Nawaz government. He held several marches and dharna in Islamabad. It is alleged that the Pakistani establishment is covertly aiding Imran Khan.

Nawaz’s party, Pakistan Muslim League (N), may prefer mid-term elections. They are confident of winning again. The elections are due next year. In the next elections, Nawaz’s daughter Maryam, is likely to be a major campaigner for the party. She is meeting party leaders and regularly interacts with the media.

Nawaz’s disqualification may also affect India-Pakistan relations for some time. There is a complete pause on the dialogue between the two countries. Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif know each other and call each other over birthdays, religious festivals etc. In the international relations, personal equations also matter.

By: Jatin Desai


Updated On: Friday, 28 July 2017