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Monday March 04, 2024

Accountability back on menu?

By Editorial Board
December 09, 2023

PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif keeps going back and forth between his two avatars: the forgiving persecuted politician and the angry persecuted politician. Switching to angry mode, Nawaz has renewed his demand to hold accountable those who were behind his ouster from power in 2017 and responsible for Pakistan’s “destruction”. 

Speaking about the corruption cases registered against him and his family members, Nawaz has said those who lodged “bogus cases” should be taken to task. Sharif’s statement comes a day after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) decided to hear on merit Nawaz’s appeal against his conviction in the Al-Azizia reference. 

Former Pakistan’s PM and graft convict Nawaz Sharif (C) arrives to appear before the court in Islamabad on October 24, 2023. — AFP
Former Pakistan’s PM and graft convict Nawaz Sharif (C) arrives to appear before the court in Islamabad on October 24, 2023. — AFP  

The IHC had previously overturned his conviction in the Avenfield reference case. While things are moving smoothly for Nawaz both legally and politically, there are many misgivings about the upcoming elections, particularly from the PTI. However, one thing is different – now even those PTI leaders and their media supporters are at least admitting that the 2018 elections were controversial and that what happened to Nawaz, Maryam and his party wasn’t fair. In a recent interview, lawyer and PTI leader Hamid Khan said that the 2018 elections were controversial but he tried to downplay what had happened to PML-N leaders, including the imprisonment of Nawaz and Maryam, and said that what is happening now has no parallels.

This is by no means persecution Olympics but what the PTI leader conveniently missed was how Project Imran has led to a destruction of the country in many ways – from ruining our political structure, hurting the economy, unimaginable polarization in society, censorship in the media to now coming to a point where the hybrid system is quite obviously here to stay. In that sense, Nawaz is right in asking that those responsible for his ouster should be held accountable. This is one thing that has reversed our democratic process in a lot of ways, and analysts say that they are not sure how or when it will be rolled back, if ever. Once power and space is ceded by civilians, it takes decades to get them back. We saw the 1990s and how the PPP and PML-N were used against each other constantly. The Charter of Democracy (CoD) was signed and some would say that, because of how the PPP and PML-N refused to be used in overthrowing each others’ governments, Project Imran was launched. The way Nawaz Sharif was ousted as prime minister and the way the entire judiciary was used to target the PML-N leadership is a blot on our judicial system. This experiment led to so many things changing on the ground that a recent report has made a case for how the hybrid system will somehow be a permanent fixture of our political process.

That said, Nawaz and his party may want to figure out once and for all just what mode they will be on come election time. The PML-N is widely being seen as the main beneficiary of a once-again skewed political arena. Their past travails aside – and they have legitimate reasons to speak about their persecution – democratic norms dictate that any cases pursued against political figures are not just veiled witch-hunts, that the electoral process is above board, and that the people's mandate is respected.