ISLAMABAD: The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaf (PTI) have got much more relief from the courts as compared to its rival political parties particularly since the apex court announced its Panamagate verdict in July 2017.
Premier Imran Khan on Monday urged the top judges to restore public confidence through uniform application of the law in the backdrop of the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) order to allow former PM Nawaz Sharif to fly abroad for treatment without submitting indemnity bonds as insisted by the government.
Interestingly, other major political parties – Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – had been making similar complaints and calling for uniform application of the law in the past.
The PTI is apparently the biggest beneficiary of Panamagate verdict passed by the apex court’s five-judge larger bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa. The court had ousted Nawaz Sharif and decided to supervise trial against members of the Sharif family.
Even due to the SC implementation bench’s deadline, the trial court convicted both Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz and they were sent jail before the July 2018 general election. Later, a former high court judge alleged that judicial proceedings were manipulated in Panama case.
During the last year of former CJP Mian Saqib Nisar, the PML-N faced a tough time in various ways. Three PML-N lawmakers Danyal Aziz, Talal Chaudhry and Nihal Hashmi were disqualified in contempt cases.
A number of PML-N leaders like Nawaz, Shehbaz Sharif, Saad Rafique, Ahsan Iqbal, Pervaiz Rashid were summoned in connection with different governance issues and were grilled.
The PML-N lawyers believe that Justice Nisar’s remarks severely damaged the party’s reputation during the time when they were running a campaign for the July 25, 2018 polls.
Cases were also registered under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) against the PML-N and the PPP workers for using derogatory language against Justice Nisar.
Even the apex court disqualified two PML-N senators on account of holding dual nationalities. Later, the PTI got a majority in the Punjab Assembly and succeeded in winning the seats on time.
The PPP top leaders – Asif Ali Zardari and Faryal Talpur –are also behind bars because of the apex court’s suo-motu proceedings in fake account case. The court also shifted trial of Zardari and Talpur from Sindh – the PPP’s political bastion – to Punjab.
Moreover, the PML-N President Shehbaz and Nawaz’s daughter Maryam Nawaz got bail then same relief was also given to PTI MPAs Aleem Khan and Sabtain Khan.
On the other hand, the PTI chief Imran Khan was declared ‘sadiq’ and ‘amin’ [truthful and trustworthy] by the apex court led by Justice Nisar.
The PTI’s senior leader Jahangir Tareen was declared disqualified but Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, PM’s adviser Zulfi Bukhari and Imran Khan’s sister Aleema Khan got relief from his bench.
The court also did not apply Article 62 (1) (f) on Federal Minister Azam Swati in a case in which Swati misused power to influence the capital police to arrest some people belonging to working class.
Even the apex court led by Justice Khosa did not halt accountability campaign against opposition parties. Several lawmakers like Asif Ali Zardari, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Faryal Talpur, Saad Rafique, Khursheed Shah, Hamza Shahbaz, Rana Sanuallah and other government functionaries are still behind bars but the courts did not give them any relief.
Nawaz Sharif is yet to get relief in Al Azizia case in which he was convicted as Islamabad’s Accountability Court-II Judge Arshad Malik who sentenced him to seven-year imprisonment on Dec 24, 2018, later confessed in a secretly recorded video that he was blackmailed into giving the verdict.
On the other hand, the PTI’s Babar Awan was acquittal in Nandipur project case.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) also did not arrest Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervez Elahi, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Special Assistant to PM on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, aka Zulfi Bukhari, and PM’s Principal Secretary Azam Khan.
There is also a perception that the judiciary is lenient toward the security establishment.
The SC’s judgment in Asghar Khan case is yet to be implemented. Despite the passage of six years, treason trial of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf is pending. Interestingly, the PTI led government is the biggest cause for delay in the trial.
A senior lawyer said credibility deficit and depolarization is the biggest challenge facing the judiciary. “Right now the judiciary is seen in as ‘a camp’. It should not be polarized, it should be bipartisan.”
Renowned lawyer Faisal Siddiqui talks about balancing of judicial reforms and threats to democracy, human rights and judicial independence. “CJP Khosa successfully concentrated on the former threats but sadly ignored the latter,” he said.
In his address on the eve on New Judicial Year, the CJP said the growing perception that the process of accountability is lopsided and is a part of political engineering is a dangerous perception and some remedial steps need to be taken urgently so that the process does not lose credibility.
“Recovery of stolen wealth of the citizenry is a noble cause and it must be legitimately and legally pursued where it is due but if in the process the constitutional and legal morality of the society and the recognized standards of fairness and impartiality are compromised then retrieval of the lost constitutional and legal morality may pose an even bigger challenge to the society at large in the days to come. It may not be lost sight of that while talking of social and economic justice the Objectives Resolution of 1949 and the Preamble to the Constitution also speak of political justice,” he said.