The good, the bad, and the ugly of the Panama Leak
By Babar Ayaz
The good, the bad and ugly of the Panama leak soap has consumed the nation for the last many months.
Every evening Tele-Pundits hold heated debates on this subject telling us that democracy is in danger. Good things happen seldom in this country and are mostly missed by those who have no interest in following the evolution of the process of Democratic dispensation. They thrive on the television ratings. There is little appreciation of the fact that Pakistan is a developing economy and a developing democracy.
The country’s political system has suffered 33 years of military intervention, which has retarded the growth of a democratic culture that includes political party also. Though for the last nine years the establishment has not made a coup directly, they have kept the political government shaky by using covert tactics.
The first good thing about this whole exercise is that the rulers are in the accountability dock for their financial omissions and commissions. The second good thing about it is that there is a struggle between the democratic institutions for more space, which is normal in all the democratic societies. The judiciary is trying to establish that it is more than independent. How I wish they would have exercised independence when the establishment took-over the power unconstitutionally — not once but thrice.
The civil and military bureaucracy and the judiciary are developed institutions of the capitalist society. They have both constitutional and extra constitutional powers in the absence of real democracy in the country.
On the other hand the political parties are still quasi-feudal in character. As far as the issue of corruption is concerned, all these institutions are equally corrupt.
Similarly it is also true that we are equally corrupt when compared to the level of corruption in other countries which are at the same stage of economic and political development. So the good thing is that for the first time a sitting Prime Minister has been indicted by the judiciary.
There was also an attempt by the former Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry to nab the then sitting President Asif Zardari. But Yousaf Raza Gillani stood in his way and sacrificed his position. All these things look very messy but the good development is that the accountability system is moving ahead though it is only against the political class.
What I consider the bad of the process is that the judges sometimes make sensational remarks in writing and in passing during the trial. It would be more appropriate if judges would speak through their judgment and refrain from indulging in sensational and populist remarks which can get them the headlines but are beneath their honorable status.
It is becoming ugly as the ruling party is getting aggressive about the judicial process, they have a right to register their reservation regarding the composition of JIT but have no right to threaten its members as was done by Nehal Hashmi implicitly.
It is also sad that the honorable judge got provoked and dubbed the government a mafia.
At the same time in any civilised society the accused is dealt with respect by the investigation officer and not put under psychological pressure as it was evident from the leaked photograph of Mr. Hussain Nawaz. But instead of leaving it to the people’s perception which could have got him some sympathy, he has arrogantly said that by making him sit like that in an empty room he was insulted.
The ruling party is so baffled by this case that they have blurred the line between the fact that the Panama case is against the Prime Minister’s family and not the government. It should be defended by the Sharifs or by their spokesperson. Instead all government resources are being used to defend the accused. This also shows lack of maturity of the ruling party, they could have managed it by keeping a respectable distance between the Sharif family case and the government institution.
The Sharif family has also failed to handle the crisis communication professionally. The basic rules of crisis communication were not kept in mind as a result they have suffered in creating the right perception and defending their case. This case could be taught as the worst example of crisis communication management.
People are also not clear whether the case will be finally decided before the next election. Para 91 of the judgment says that the special bench on receiving the report from the JIT could refer it to the accountability court which sounds logical. That may be the right route of any corruption case. The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal hence the Sharifs should not be denied their right to exhaust the trial at the lower court. But there is also confusion that in a Para 5 final judgment it has been said that on receiving the JIT report the case could be referred to the Chief Justice of Pakistan for trial by the special bench of Supreme Court. My lawyer friends believed it would be the special bench of the Supreme Court and not the accountability court which would decide the Prime Minister’s family fate.
Writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org