Sunday February 25, 2024

Beyond the rhetoric

March 03, 2017

The Supreme Court has reserved judgement in one of the most politicised cases in Pakistan’s political history where rhetoric trumped logic, reasoning and evidence at numerous occasions.

Be that as it may, the case definitely raised some very difficult questions for both sides. The most significant element of the entire proceeding was the burden of proof, which kept shifting from one side to the other.

For the petitioners it was never easy to establish the allegations levelled against the sitting prime minister and his family. It was equally difficult for the respondents to satisfy the court on different counts. The honourable judges certainly did not get all the answers to the questions they had raised. What is more important, though, is whether they are satisfied with the answers given by the petitioners and respondents. The judgement, which is expected to be announced soon, will answer this question.

The infamous London flats, owned by the PM’s sons, came under discussion countless times. The petitioners maintained their stance that the Sharif family owned these flats since the early 1990s, whereas the PM’s son reiterated through his lawyer that the ownership of the flats was transferred to him in 2006.

In hindsight there are some very interesting observations that can help analyse the Supreme Court’s impending order in the Panama case. The efficacy of the ICIJ’s revelation also comes into this. Does it qualify as complete evidence? If yes, then the case would have been decided long ago.

The case certainly needed corroborating evidence from day one. This is the problem the petitioners have had. The unverified documents couldn’t seem to prove the allegations. The petitioners kept struggling to prove that the flats were owned by the Sharif family before 2006.

However, the shift in the burden of proof clearly put the respondents in a defensive mode. The letter from Qatar’s Al Thani family not only attracted the judges’ ire but also made the respondents a laughing stock. Imran Khan and Co, whose case was weak on evidence, capitalised on this flimsy piece of evidence submitted by the PM’s children. The judges’ questions made things difficult for the lawyers pleading the respondent’s case. The discrepancy or presumed omission of the Qatar investment story in the PM’s speech created a lot of confusion as it obfuscated an otherwise simple story told before the National Assembly. The judges, will think multiple times before defining the terms ‘sadiq’ and ‘ameen’ under articles 62 and 63.

Nevertheless, the edge the PM has is that neither is he named in the Panama Papers nor does he have any causal link with the flats directly. It appears to be difficult to rope the PM in the case on the basis of assumptions. Flimsy – or no – record of the money trail of the Jeddah, Qatar and Dubai ventures does not make the PM guilty, at least ostensibly. It does not appear likely that the Supreme Court will sanction the PM for his father’s failure to keep business records of the 1970s and 1980s.

Moreover, the petitioners’ allegations about money laundering and corruption couldn’t seem to bear fruit because the material submitted is less likely to be relied on by the court in its judgement. The FIA’s report made by Rehman Malik in the mid-90s and Ishaq Dar’s confessional statement in the Hudaibiyah Mill Case don’t seem to qualify as good evidence before the court.

However, the fact that NAB and FBR did not act properly ever since the Panama revelations does create a serious moral legitimacy issue for the respective heads of the two institutions and the government. The Supreme Court’s judgement will probably comment on the callous inability of these two institutions.


The writer works for Geo News.

Email: muneebfarooqraja@