Categorized | South Asian Politics

THE PANAMA CASE JUDGMENT AND AFTERMATH

Posted on 27 April 2017 by admin

Dr Hasan Askari

The PMLN has reasons to celebrate because the majority judgment of the Supreme Court bench in the Panama Leaks case did not disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Two judges (minority opinion) disqualified Nawaz Sharif from holding the office for failing to be a “sadiq” and “Amin” as required by the constitution. However, the judgment of the majority (three judges) prevailed. Even the majority judgment contains adverse comments about the money affairs of the Prime Minister’s family and is critical of the role of the Chairman, National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The majority judgment can be described as an interim order because the case against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family has not been closed. The three judges have created an investigative team, headed by the Additional Director, Federal Investigation Authority (FIA), to seek information on sources of funds and their trail from the Prime Minister and his family. This report will be submitted to the Supreme Court in 60 days which will be taken up by a new bench to be established by the Chief Justice. In other words, the case will again be taken up in the light of the report of the investigative team for final disposal.

The opinion is divided on what will happen next. The PTI people are happy that the case has not been closed and that the chances of the Prime Minister’s disqualification still exist. However, the PMLN people feel that the Prime Minister has been saved from disqualification and even the new investigative team would not be able to find anything against the Prime Minister and his family. Therefore, the Prime Minister would continue in his office and complete his term.

This is true in theory that the case is not yet closed. However, there are several doubts if the present judgment will change. It seems that the Supreme Court has provided a subtle way out of the case to Nawaz Sharif.

If Nawaz Sharif and his family did not provide satisfactory evidence on the sources and movement of the family funds to the Supreme Court, how could an investigative team headed by a junior ranking officer extract information from the Prime Minister’s family.

Further, the Additional Director, FIA, is a government servant under the federal government headed by the Prime Minister.

How could be investigate the Prime Minister in an independent manner?

No new evidence is expected to be explored by this team, which can keep the case pending.

Further, the Chief Justice will have to set up a new Supreme Court bench to take up the case and look into the report of the investigative team. It is not clear if the bench can decide the matter without looking at the old evidence and without listening to the lawyers of both sides. This will amount to taking up the case more or less from the beginning. If this happens it will become another long process. It is quite possible that the new bench holds some sessions to review the report and then opt for more evidence. It can also adjourn the case for an indefinite period.

As the opposition political parties do not have any confidence in the investigative team headed by a federal government official, they are thinking that the judicial option may have come to an end. The major opposition parties, i.e. PTI, PPP, PMLQ, and Jamaat-i-Islami, have demanded that the Prime Minister should resign. Their argument is that two judges of the bench have disqualified the Prime Minister and the three judges have made some negative comments about him and his family. The PMLN has rejected this demand.

The National Assembly and the Senate had a stormy sessions on April 21, 2017, on account of the Supreme Court judgment. The opposition demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister and Imran Khan was not allowed to make a speech in the National Assembly. The sessions of both houses were postponed for an indefinite period. By closing the parliamentary session, the ruling PMLN has provided an easy reason to the opposition to go to streets. The tempers on both sides are running high in the post judgment period and both sides are using foul language against each other.

The PPP and the PTI have announced their separate plans to hold public rallies against the Prime Ministers in different places. Imran Khan has decided to hold a big public rally in Islamabad onApril 28, The Jamaat-i-Islami is also expected to do that. However, as long as these opposition parties join together in protest they will not be able to build much pressure on Nawaz Sharif. The public meetings of individual political parties can be neutralized by using the state machinery.

This means that despite being saved from disqualification, Nawaz Sharif will not get peaceful and stable political environment. The major opposition parties, especially the PTI and the People’s Party, are expected to resort to street protest on electricity shortages, corruption in government and poor governance. The Panama issue may lose its salience but political uncertainty and confrontation between the government and the opposition will continue.

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