As expected, the ball is back in the court of prime minister and we arrive back at square one. The Chief Justice of Pakistan has refused to form a ‘toothless’ commission with vague terms of reference to probe indefinite number of individuals over infinite period of time. Instead, the chief justice has suggested the government to reconsider the legislation to empower the commission and provide the precise names of individuals and companies to probe. Keeping in mind contradictory statements of his family members, would it be possible for our prime minister to form such a commission is yet to be seen.
Legendary Chinese philosopher and writer Lao-Tzu says ‘who amasses too much bears heavy losses’. Before putting on the cloak of a politician Nawaz Sharif was a businessman. Once in power corridors, financial growth of his businesses had been phenomenal. Over the decades he has accumulated too much which is stashed in different continents. Ironically, he is the premier of a nation which is heading fast to be the poorest one on this planet and direly needs investment. Contradictory trajectories are bound to cross each other at some point and that point has arrived in the disguise of Panama leaks.
Nawaz Sharif is the most experienced and the luckiest prime minister the nation have ever had. Heavens have showered kindness and mercy on him again and again. But his luck is running out and we are witnessing the second part of an era which would be termed as ‘rise and fall of Nawaz Sharif’ in history books. Now it is the war of survival with at least two objectives: keeping the riches invested abroad safe and making Maryam Safdar a prime minister in future.
In early days of his third term he was reported for being bored in the Prime Minister House. It was even reported that he did not wish to be the prime minister at first place. But then he found some utility of his third term; to market Maryam Safdar as the avatar of Benazir Bhutto and train her as a future prime minister. Since then Sharif family ceased to cherish shared objectives.
Panama leaks came as a thunder from the blue at a moment when he had started to dream a renewed mandate in 2018. His initial response was a panicked one. Then he went for London and the nation was told that he needed urgent medical treatment. During that stay damage assessment was done and a multidimensional defense strategy was formulated.
In his state address on April 22, he preferred to look as a billionaire, who also happened to be a Prime Minister, fully determined to defend every penny of his wealth. He asked the Chief Justice of Pakistan to form a commission to probe Panma leaks and lot more. This address was made on Friday evening, and the following day chief justice was scheduled to leave for a seven days visit to Turkey. To delay as much as possible is the very first pillar of his strategy. In the mid May we stand exactly where we stood on April 3, when first episode of Panama Papers was leaked.
The second part of his strategy involves distraction and infusing confusion. Hence the usage of vituperative language by PML-N leaders and revival of decades old mantra that democracy is in danger. Revelations of offshore assets are projected as a conspiracy against Nawaz Sharif, who stands for democracy and development of Pakistan, and as a turf war where military wants more control over the affairs of the state.
The third dimension of his policy requires himself to present as the promised messiah for the nation. Taxpayer’s money is generously spent for his image building through massive advertisement. While addressing public gatherings he announces glitzy projects and makes every promise that comes in his mind. If he survives fall from Panama, these promises would go to the trash bin. In the other case, these speeches could be used in future to remind people that Pakistan was about to be a developed nation when he was ousted from power.
To rule, our leaders ask people for votes and beg international power players for support. On the fourth side, SOS messages must have been sent to international masters. Few signs of foreign assistance are perceptible. In the near future, some events may eclipse the revelations of Panama leaks and we may have no choice but to postpone the accountability issue. In this perspective, the delay of a single day becomes significant.
If everything fails and history repeats itself, it would be more beneficial to be a political martyr than an impeached prime minister. Just imagine, few years later, in an election campaign, Maryam Safdar telling people that ‘My father had not yet seen the marriages of his grandchildren when he was ousted of the PM house’. She would go to people as a sister awaiting justice. Our memories are short and traditionally we do not let a sister or daughter return empty handed. Thus sooner or later she will be the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
We would remember the year 2016 as a ‘year of leaks’. We are being told that even people like Imran Khan and Dr A. Q. Khan have had offshore companies in the past. World Bank says that Pakistanis sent $5 billion to India last year and in last 3 years it amounts to $14.36 billions. In last 5 years, Pakistanis have invested AED 30.64 billion in Dubai and are considered among top 3 investors. These days we are learning about those Pakistanis who own properties in Dubai but have not declared in their tax returns. In the days to come more leaks are likely to follow. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures and thus economic emergency should have been imposed. The real issue today is not the resignation of Nawaz Sharif but impartial and across the board accountability. By now NAB and FIA should have been working overtime. Ideally, the Prime Minister of Pakistan should be leading the war against corruption and tax evasion. But it is not happening. Rather he is standing on the top of a dysfunctional system and brandishing the flag of democracy. Unlike his previous terms, heavens have put him on the wrong side as the last obstacle on the way of accountability. He may win at the end, but it would be a personal victory. Well, it had always been personal..
This article was published in DailyTimes.