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October 12, 2017



Bloomers committed by Nawaz, family since start of Panama case

ISLAMABAD: In hindsight, deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his children and Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar may be regretting their overconfident approach about fighting the Panama case that spawned disastrous consequences for them.

The list of seemingly avoidable bloomers committed by the Sharif family is long. Hardly any politician of Nawaz Sharif’s stature will so meekly bow before this kind of chancy judicial process as he meekly surrendered to receive an unprecedented punishment.

The mistakes occurred in the hope that no harm will come in their way because they have done no wrong and have not pilfered the public money. They were sure that since the matter in question thoroughly related to the family business and no public kitty was involved, they have nothing to hide.

The first gaffe was committed by Nawaz Sharif when he could not read the writing on the wall – die is cast to oust him. He walked into the trap and was painlessly grabbed by his rivals, leaving him to bemoan and whine subsequently. A number of his leading detractors including a prominent lawyer, who is close to his adversaries, were repeatedly asserting that his dismissal was a fait accompli. But such a talk was dismissed as inconsequential by the former prime minister.

The second booboo emerged when Nawaz Sharif opted for not questioning the maintainability of the petitions against him and others and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court particularly after they have been earlier trashed for being frivolous by the court registrar when Anwar Zaheer Jamali was the chief justice. It is generally believed that when the registrar takes a decision on any petition, it is not his own independent conclusion, but it is the chief justice, who speaks through him.

There was a strong opinion in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) that the maintainability must be challenged but Nawaz Sharif insisted that he would not do that because his hands were clean and he has committed no corruption. Even before the top court had taken up the petitions, reversing the registrar’s decision, he had volunteered to face any kind of accountability at any forum.

However, he has now raised pertinent questions as to why the pleas were held in order after the registrar had described them as trivial. He stated this to build up his theme that he was removed as part of a conspiracy.

The third blunder surfaced when no objections were raised to the incorporation of the senior representatives of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) in the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) although the government had sufficiently got the adverse consequence of their inclusion in the earlier committee on the DawnLeaks that forced Nawaz Sharif to dump two of his closest confidants – Pervez Rashid and Tariq Fatemi.

The time to make noise over their induction was when it was actually provided in the April 20 majority judgment while constituting the JIT. In the beginning, no many eyebrows were raised even within the PML-N over this.

The Sharif family also did not target with ferocity the presence of two officials of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) in the JIT on the ground that they were opposed to the Sharifs and their past track record was witness to their damning conduct.

As the JIT went ahead with its assignment and its bias and partisanship started floating on the surface to all and sundry, the Sharif family became deeply alarmed and began articulating its reservations about its prejudice, strong-arm methods and even harassment of some of its members. But this was too late. The objections ought to have been strongly highlighted from day one when the representatives of the ISI, MI, SBP and SECP were taken in the JIT. Simultaneously, the insertion of an Intelligence Bureau (IB) representative in the JIT should have been vehemently stressed when the team was constituted.

The Sharifs’ perception that they will be fairly treated by the JIT stood shattered as the team became very aggressive during interrogation and did not hide even slightly its premeditated strategy to entangle the then premier and his entire family come what may.

The opinion of the Sharif family that it has been badly ensnared became further fortified when Hussain Nawaz’s photograph was leaked from the interrogation room of the heavily guarded Federal Judicial Academy where the JIT held its sessions. It was further reinforced when the JIT presented its interim reports to the three-member implementation bench of the Supreme Court in which it even admitted to have monitored the telephones of the Prime Minister’s House, accused SECP Chairman Zafarul Hijazi of record tampering to favour the Sharifs’ sugar mill, non-cooperation of different key government departments in the probe etc. The eyes of the Sharif family were then fully opened to see the nightmare they might not have expected.

However, no amount of protest made by senior government leaders created even a small feeling in the JIT members to at least show a modicum of impartiality, fair play and transparency. They were on a mission since word go and stuck to it till the end, getting Nawaz Sharif. More agonizing for the Sharif family was that at no stage did the apex court come to its rescue by attaching even cursory credence to its umpteen objections and protestations.

The fourth error of judgment was misreading of the lengthy proceedings in the Supreme Court, spanning 126 days. If the penetrating remarks of all the five judges, who formed the bench, were any guide, it had become clear to even naïve minds during the very hearings what was in store for the Sharif family at the end. Apart from the ultimate catastrophic consequences the judgment produced for the Sharifs, the way they were maligned during the proceedings was obviously traumatic for them. Not only the prime minister had to go home on a minor omission, he and other family members are confronted with four references in the accountability court.