Ray of Hope, Or..... By:Prof. Dr. Munir M. Hasan

The inquiry by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) on Panama Papers and the judgment of the Supreme Court are drawing near. People are hopeful and expecting a result which will change the fate of Pakistan. They say that the process of accountability of the elites has started which will end the corruption in the country. My assessment is quite different. The forces behind the scenes have become active and the legal procedure in Pakistan is such that the criminals are benefited from it. We can only pray for the expectation of the people to come true, but this case against the Prime Minister and his family, whatever the verdict of the Supreme Court may be, is not going to mark any change in the country and is not going to change the fate of Pakistan, for the reasons as under.

If the decision of the Supreme Court goes in favour of the Prime Minister, then the whole story ends. If it goes against the Prime Minister, then there will be three actions which will follow:

Disqualification and removal of the Prime Minister from his office
Punishment on the charges of corruption and/or money laundering
Bringing the illegal money back to Pakistan
The present case in the Supreme Court against the Prime Minister is only for his disqualification under Articles 63 of the Constitution of Pakistan. Even if the Court convicts him, he will only be disqualified to act as a Prime Minister for the rest of his tenure which is already nearing end. This may cause some political upset, however, a crony from his Party may become the next Prime Minister and the present policies will continue. The disqualification from the future elections has no meaning as the ground has already been made for another member of his family to become the Prime Minister. Even if he finds a chance to dissolves the Assembly, the next elections may be called. The results of these elections cannot be predicted.

The decision of the Supreme Court in the present case, being only a case of disqualification of the Prime Minister, cannot award punishment to the Prime Minister for his crimes. For awarding the punishment to him and to any member of his family, and for the recovery of the illegal money, a new trial case has to be initiated, possibly in the High Court.

The legal history of Pakistan tells us that in such cases it takes years, rather decades, to get a decision. And when the matter relates to a person of high political ranking, especially when all the investigation agencies are highly politicized, this case may never be decided. This opinion is substantiated by the fact that Asghar Khan’s case has not been investigated by the FIA in the last 20 years. If it was investigated and decided early, then there was no chance for the present Prime Minister to become the Prime Minister for the third time. Another similar case is regarding the co-chairman of the PPP when he was holding the office of the President of Pakistan. At that time there was a huge cry against him in the Supreme Court for the recovery of 65 million dollars. He took refuge of immunity of the office of the President. However, after leaving the office when he has no immunity, everybody has forgotten this case. The money has neither been recovered, nor the culprit has faced any punishment. So, it is expected that after the disqualification of the Prime Minister, everybody will forget about his punishment and recovery of his illegal wealth.

As I said above, the case of corrupt practices by the incumbent Prime Minister or by any member of his family has to be tried in a trial court. Under the law, a person is innocent until proved guilty by a competent court. He/she will remain qualified for competing in the general elections until he/she is declared otherwise. As this case of corruption will not be decided soon, the daughter of the Prime Minister, in spite of the case against her, will be eligible to contest in the next general elections. Not only to win the election, but to complete her tenure because the case will still be pending in the court. If it so happens, the policies of the present Prime Minister will continue. All institutions of the country will remain politicized and there will be no advantage at all in removing the present Prime Minister from his office.

Posted on Jul 05, 17 | 12:50 am