He was fired thrice as the PM in his entire political career spanning over 35 years. It’s not at all a good record. On July 28, the Supreme Court (SC) disqualified Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers scandal only after receiving enough evidence suggesting that the top leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is not honest. According to ‘leaked’ Panama Papers, three of Sharif’s children own offshore firms and assets which have not been shown as part of the family wealth. The Sharif family has also been accused of living beyond their means, hiding their assets, perjury and forgery. Delivering the judgement last week, a SC Bench said that Sharif’s daughter Mariyam had produced a forged trust deed to the court. So, the SC came to the conclusion that the entire family is ‘very corrupt’.
Sharif has been the focus of a judicial investigation for many years. But, the SC’s latest verdict has made it difficult for the PML-N supremo to return to the mainstream politics. As expected, his main political rival Imran Khan is very happy with the recent development. The SC verdict allows Imran and his ‘Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’ Party to enjoy the ‘political victory’ over Sharif after a long time. Tehreek-e-Insaf has started making preparations for the upcoming Parliamentary Polls (scheduled to be held in 2018), as the opposition leader believes that his party will definitely win the election next year. For the last three decades, Sharif has occupied much of Pakistan’s political space and Imran has constantly opposed him. However, the recent development has created a great opportunity for Imran and his party to checkmate Sharif.
The current political scenario is not good for Sharif, as well as for Pakistan. Some political experts are of the opinion that the SC verdict proves the strength of democracy in the South Asian country. They say that the PM’s resignation on corruption charges symbolises the real strength of democracy. Although experts have rightly justified the SC’s move, they have failed to address some important issues.
First of all, why the ‘corrupt’ PM was not prosecuted through a criminal trial process? Secondly, whether the judiciary has the power to dismiss the PM. Thirdly, why the verdict was delivered only against Sharif and not against other accused? Soon after being elected interim Prime Minister by the National Assembly on Tuesday, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told the Lower House of the Pakistani Parliament: “Sharif has been sent home, but he is still people’s premier. Justice demands that 1,000 guilty are set free than one innocent is convicted.”
Pakistan is such a country where tax evasion is a ‘common’ phenomenon. Every leader and almost all the members of the upper class society evade tax in Pakistan. As far as democracy is concerned, (perhaps) the judiciary set a wrong example by dealing with this sensitive issue in such a manner. The importance of the legislature may decrease in Pakistan in the coming years due to judicial over-activism. It will be difficult for the next administrative chief (or head of the government or interim PM Abbasi) to work closely with the judiciary, armed forces and other important institutions. It is important for a civilian government to come back with full dignity in a country where the judiciary can weaken the legislature with a single stroke. Otherwise, there is no point to glorify the strength of democracy.
Soon after becoming the PM for the third time in 2013, Sharif assured his countrymen that he would try hard to establish a democratic system in Pakistan. In fact, he took various steps in the last four years to increase the power of the civilian government. Sometimes, he went on direct confrontations with the most powerful Pakistani Army over important issues, such as the Indo-Pak relations. Since its birth in 1947, Pakistan has witnessed the victory of military power whenever there is a fight between democracy and military dictatorship. So, the most important point is: whether the Pakistani military wants to capture power by overthrowing a civilian government with the help of judiciary. In that case, the present moment is not only uncertain, but also very critical for Pakistan.
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