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Panama and Dawn leaks by Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

The Supreme Court on April 20 finally announced the much anticipated verdict in Panama case after keeping it reserved for 57 days. The verdict has not closed the matter though as the majority has partially reserved its judgement at least until a thorough investigation by a Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which will present its report in 60 days. After the pronouncement of the decision, the PML N leaders and their supporters celebrated to their hearts fill their “victory”, and the Prime Minister House celebrations were even of greater fanfare and fireworks!  Perhaps PML-N leaders and supporters had every reason to celebrate this decision because it saved them from disqualification of the prime minister.

By fate or intelligent designs the government and the opposition claim an equal share in the victory, the government feels vindicated while the opposition claims the judgement has ‘stained’ his moral character. The judgment is also indeed historic because never before has a sitting prime minister been subjected to such intense judicial scrutiny.

The judgment was a split decision three judges favoring constitution of the Commission and two saying outright that the prime minister should be disqualified. The senior most judge of the apex court and the future Chief Justice of Pakistan Mr. Justice Asif Saeed Khosa was one of the judges who wrote a dissenting note saying the prime minister should be disqualified. Technically all five judges rejected the defence presented by the prime minster and his family resultantly the formation of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to thoroughly probe the matter. The only difference is that two of them wanted prime minister to be disqualified immediately but the remaining three did not  seem eye to eye with the very preposition and opined, a JIT may be a proper forum to determine whether he is Sadik and Ameen or not.

The court decision to institute a JIT is indeed a massive relief for the Sharif family for it may turn out to be a Herculean task for the body to conclude the case in mere 60 days. The the entire process is expected to see inordinate delays, all to the advantage of the prime minister and the ruling party. More importantly, when the court has termed the representatives of the same civilian investigative agencies as compromised, who, despite the support of the Supreme Court will face the bitter strength of the power culture during its investigations?

Although both main opposition parties PTI and the PPP are united in demanding that the prime minister should step down till the time the JIT completes its report, there is no mass swell of support for the call. While there is a question of moral legitimacy following the court ruling, morality has never been an issue in our country’s political culture.  The country’s most powerful political entity does not visibly appear very worried by the opposition campaign either. Likewise, the call by the Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies demand for prime minister  to step down may be non consequential from the perspective of his supporters, however, this seem to have increased pressure.

Political analysts say, the court verdict may also bring both PPP and PTI closer and they may launch joint struggle against the government, though it appears a far-fetched analysis keeping in view the level of hostility between the two parties. PPP has unequivocally rejected the Supreme Court decision terming it “frivolous” and so did Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Dr. Tahirul Qadri.

We can only be highly optimistic that the JIT is allowed to operate in an independent and transparent manner so as to enable it to find answers to questions raised by the apex court. The categorical statement from the corps commanders that the army would play its “due role” to live up to the expectations of the Supreme Court appears to have infused new spirit into the JIT but at the same time this declaration has led to raised eyebrows.

Earlier, one could conjecture that the delay in the infamous Dawn Leaks report is owing to some difference of opinion between the civil and military authorities which was now become abundantly evident after the report has been issued. The military has categorically rejected govt action announced following the Dawn leak report, saying the notification is incomplete. The military’s reaction is unprecedented therefore it cannot and should not go un-addressed, in the larger good of future of civil-military relations in Pakistan.


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