Decision to disqualify Mian Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif was neither surprising nor shocking, as some commentators and politicians are putting it. All along the Sharif’s alleged it publicly that justice was not expected by them from ‘PCO judges.’
They have been rightly questioning the independence of judiciary and are committed to bring back CJP Ch. Iftikhar back. Though not rightly formulated, as it is personality-driven and not issue driven, politically it is a principled stand and cannot be brushed aside. In this situation when their proposers’ appealed that a larger bench of ‘non-PCO judges’ should be formulated to hear their case, they did not get justice. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find people of substance in this society who would rise above their egos and personal prejudices. So the expectation that Sharif’s lawyers’ plea would get a sympathetic hearing was not realistic.
Now let’s look at another aspect of this case. Sharifs have openly blamed that President Zardari has influenced the court’s decision. The general perception is that they are right in making this assumption. And if this assumption is correct then the question is why PML (N) expected any favour from President Zardari. Their short honeymoon, which gave starry-eyed analysts like me hope that the democratic system would be finally strengthened in this country, was over long ago. In this case it was the Sharif’s who divorced Zardari in favour of their love with the lawyers’ movement. Although, political sagacity demanded not to break an alliance on a single issue. The country needed this alliance as it is faced with a much bigger threat of Talibanisation and American pressure.
The Sharifs have pledged to participate in the long march and the indefinite sit-in in Islamabad on 16th March. This perhaps was the last salvo for President Zardari. And then don’t forget he has not forgotten incarceration and humiliation he suffered during the Sharif’s regime. So once again expecting favours or high-political ethics from the President was day-dreaming.
Most legal experts are of the view that disqualification of Shahbaz Sharif was not the right decision, because he has been exonerated by the court after his elections. It cannot be held that at the time election he was still a convicted person for two reasons: one, if the court exonerates a person then it means he was never guilty; and two, the Prime Minister himself was exonerated after taking office.
However, in Mian Nawaz Sharif’s case the PPP supporters are saying that his sentence was upheld by the High Court. Leaving aside the merits of a flimsy case against him, the court could have considered the fact that soon after conviction he was packed off to Saudi Arabia under a deal. So he was not able to file his appeal against the High Court’s decision.
In any case no law of the country allows exile of a citizen. The government can say that it was a self-imposed exile. But then the same applies to the PPP leaders who went abroad and did not return till they were given amnesty under NRO. Why this NRO cannot be expanded to give amnesty to Sharifs? Particularly when the fact is that Sharif’s government was removed by General Musharraf unconstitutionally. Charges that as Nawaz Sharif was trying to hijack the COAS plane, the army was forced to bring the coup have been proved wrong even by General Musharraf’s own account in his book ‘In the line of fire.’ The army was all set to bring the coup in any case on the COAS’s return; Nawaz Sharif failed to check-mate him.
While the disqualification decision would remain questionable in the legal history of Pakistan, the immediate imposition of the Governor’s Rule in Punjab implicates the PPP leadership in this legal coup.
If PPP wanted to carry BB’s ‘Reconciliation’ agenda forward to be benevolent to Sharifs, it would have given time to PML (N) to nominate another Chief Minister and seek his election from the house. This could have raised the stature of PPP leadership. But the horse-trading which was considered bad during the senate election has now started hectically. And the dead horse of PML (Q), I am told has the highest price. Interesting, isn’t it.
The PML (N)’s major mistake was that while it anticipated a decision it did not prepare for it. In the first place they should have nominated some other leader of the party as Chief Minister till Shahbaz Sharif had cleared all legal hurdles. But as my friend Kamal Azfar once said the problem with most political parties in Pakistan is that the leadership does not see beyond their families. The PML (N) is the majority party in Punjab Assembly, but it can only form the government by joining hands with some other party. PPP had the right to pull-out from the coalition and see how PML (N) cobbles a fresh alliance.
The court decision and subsequent imposition of Governor’s rule does not augur well for the democracy in the country, which is still in its infancy. Normally such political shocks are absorbed by a democratic structure in many countries where the institutions are stronger. But unfortunately Pakistan has always had the shadow of a third force (military establishment) lurking on the country. Infighting of the major political parties; Taliban’s insurgency in the PATA, FATA and Pukhtunkhwa; expected escalation of war with Taliban in Afghanistan and its outfall on Pakistan; increased American pressure; armed upsurge in Balochistan; Jihadi organisations attempts to spoil our relations with India; and economic crunch is enough for some General to address the nation on PTV on one dark evening. Politicians and lawyers, please be aware of this danger. People of Pakistan want stability as uncertainty is nerve-wrecking. Please be kind to them.
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