What is left of democracy if void of the spirit of accountability? It hardly brought any relief when Nawaz Sharif was sent packing, when his prospect of becoming a third-time prime minister was clipped by a judicial disqualification order, and when the entire Sharif clan was pushed to the wall. When most of the leadership, including Nawaz, Shehbaz, Maryam, and Hamza, were put in jail on the charges of money laundered in offshore companies or for buying expensive flats in the heart of London’s prestigious neighbourhood. The absence of a money trail — money that had gone missing from Pakistan and was purportedly stashed by the Sharifs overseas — assumed monstrous proportion until Imran Khan came into power and became the blue-eyed boy of the establishment.
The compass of investigation stopped at Ishaq Dar, thought of as the mastermind behind the scheme of things. He was subpoenaed and wanted in multiple cases, leading to charges of fraud, kickbacks and misuse of the exchequer’s money. But, before the National Accountability Courts could lay its hand on the then finance minister, he flew out of the country on the grounds of health issues. He nevertheless became a senator in absentia and remained so for four years. He was sworn in as Senator this past Tuesday on his return to Pakistan.
The question is: what happened to all those cases in which the courts wanted Dar?
The answer is: we do not know.
The assumption is that he had come through some deal that exonerates him of all the crimes that he had yet to prove false or have courts prove either fake or fair.
The conclusion is that Pakistan’s judicial system has failed miserably in establishing whether the Sharif clan was rightly grilled by NAB or was it a witch-hunt to cut the family to its size and remind them where the gravity of the power lies.
The people of Pakistan, especially those supporting Imran Khan and his party, the PTI, were not interested as much in putting the Sharifs in jail as they were in getting the money back to its rightful place — the exchequer.
It was not to be.
The planners had a different roadmap than Khan’s. His route could only take him to the throne but not to the mission — a corruption-free Pakistan — that he had drawn to achieve in the 22 years of his struggle as a political reformer.
In the conundrum of preserving the one-page relationship, Khan started losing sight of his dream of getting Pakistan out of the clutches of mafias. Though he repeated ad nauseam the advantages of having a robust judicial system, he had little power to undo the wrong that had set in. His ambition to make Pakistan’s police force deliverable and responsive also withered in the hands of Khan’s unprepared and untrained team.
He was so engrossed in the power struggle that he stopped realising how fast he was losing the marble that had him made the darling of the change seekers. He was chasing the shadows of those who had given him the throne. Like they had given it to many others before pulling it out of their feet.
Khan deceived his followers. That was the impression his followers were carrying until April 10, when the curtain was finally drawn to the drama that had begun with the vote of no-confidence and ended with the judiciary, the military and the legislature laying their daggers down lest Khan and his party resist, any further than midnight, to leave the ring. However, this ploy neither brought joy nor a sense of loss in Khan or his followers. In fact, the chemical reaction of his ouster turned the PDM’s broth sour overnight.
Khan had never approved the Sharif family’s pardon without punishment. His only cardinal sin was that he failed to pursue the cases as a matter of priority. That sin and his performance as a prime minister, especially concerning Punjab, proved one of the many straws to break the camel’s back. According to reliable sources, corruption had risen manifolds during IK’s reign, with Punjab taking the cake. Smuggling in Balochistan carried on unabated. Karachi remained an extortionist hub due to PPP and MQM’s malpractices.
Khan’s only recourse, at the time of his ouster, was his religious thoughts and untainted reputation as a financially honest leader. Though when in power, these qualities had become a burden rather than a building block for a new tenure, the overnight turnaround of thieves, absconders and launderers into political leaders and handlers turned the table to Khan’s side and stood him out as the only saviour to relive the country from the corrupt mafias.
Ishaq Dar’s return has further eroded my faith, the faith of the country’s 220 million people in the judicial system of the country.
The moral of the story is the definition of justice for Sharifs, Ishaq Dar, Zardaris — or for that matter, even for the establishment — is the one that gravitates them to power and not the one that identifies criminals and holds them accountable.
The moral of the story for Khan is that he should have been at the side of the history and not the shadows.
As for Pakistan’s judiciary, the moral of the story is: the die is cast — it is a matter of time that this pit of selective justice, bigotry and unremorseful support to the corrupt elite sucks it in.
That reminds Shakespeare’s dialogue from King Lear: “It’s not in the stars to hold our destiny but ourselves.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2022.
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