Dharna, Panama Leaks & Supreme Court
Imran Khan pulled out the plug on the November 2 dharna at the eleventh hour, reposing faith in the judiciary upon its taking up the case and converting a protest day into one of thanksgiving.
This act of Imran Khan was stated by many to be ‘umpire’ guided or blamed on his naiveté at reposing trust in promises made. Others made fun of how he had failed his supporters and lesser numbers would be willing to come out on his call next time. The situation is not as simple as portrayed.
First, it is a fact that much lower numbers turned up than the 10 lakh attendance declared. Second, there was a lack of strategy in methodology of converging in Bani Galla. PTI did not anticipate PML-N’s focused efforts at obstructing the people coming to be part of the protest. If they did, they certainly were not prepared. Third, PTI had shaken PML-N out of apathy and desire to evade presenting their case in Panama Leaks to a competent forum. Undoubtedly, this act by Khan has turned the heat on to the issue. Fourth, had PTI continued with the original plan, even in an unlikely scenario of the government falling, the question of any illegal action alleged in Panama Leaks would have continued to remain unanswered with supporters of both sides left verbally sparring.
A Supreme Court five-member bench constituted under Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali comprising of Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Amir Hani Muslim has started hearing of the case.
What is the question involved here? The documents prepared by Mossack Fonseca disclose of mind boggling wealth, tucked out of sight in offshore companies. Having an offshore company is certainly not illegal, but concealment of assets under Pakistan law is. Further, the source of income resulting in these investments needs scrutiny to ensure it is white money. In a judgment by Queen’s Court in UK, Mayfair Apartments were attached against funds taken reference Huddaybia Mills in 1995 and a colossal amount was to be paid to release the said properties.
The Guardian has written an extremely indicting investigative piece, “In October 2008, Nawaz Sharif’s son Hussain and daughter, Mariam, turned to the Swiss arm of Deutsche Bank to borrow large sums, using the flats as collateral. Three BVI companies were used to raise the loan, which entitled Nawaz Sharif’s adult children to borrow £3.5m in cash and a further £3.5m in money to be invested in “liquid assets” by Deutsche Bank.” Full article can be read here:https://www.theguardian.com/global/2016/apr/05/pakistan-prime-minister-nawaz-sharif-children-deutsche-bank-panama-papers?CMP=share_btn_fb
According to BBC News, “These companies have been used to channel funds to acquire foreign assets, including some apartments along Park Lane in London’s Mayfair area.” (April 21, 2016}
It is true that Prime Minister Nawaz’s name is not mentioned in Panama Leaks- however, there are many financial contradictions within that make an investigation necessary. In 2011, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif showed Rs 24,851,526 worth of land in name of Maryam Nawaz Sharifas a dependent. Interestingly the daughter as a dependent become the only shareholder in Nescoll in 2006. Not just this, as a dependent on her father, she co-owner in yet another off shore Company. In mid 2011 he gave a gift of Rs 31,700,000 to Maryam Nawaz, which was never mentioned in the returns filed. Here too she was shown as a dependent. Maryam’s husband also owns only one property and 550 grams jewelry in name of his wife.( Figures & facts by Dr Ikram ul Haq Advocate Supreme Court in his Op Ed August 11, 2016 Daily Times)
Interestingly also, “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has no assets abroad, but continues to receive colossal amounts from his son, Hussain Nawaz, who is settled in the UK, reveal the statements of MNAs’ assets released by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Mr Sharif received over Rs215 million from his son Hussain Nawaz in 2015. He had previously received remittances from his son, worth Rs239 million and Rs197. 5 million in 2014 and 2013, respectively.” (Dawn, April 22, 2016)
Let us cut through the flak. Who is dependent on whom? In addition, where are the funds coming to set up companies by officially declared dependents? Why were gifts not declared? The examples I have quoted is a repetition of innumerable such examples and legal violations.
The important question here is; is Panama Leaks about political parties’ gains and settlement between themselves or does people aspirations and Pakistan’s welfare count at some point? Everyone needs to be treated under law across the board. There can be no holy cows. The law enforcing agencies have not paid their due role in investigation that had prolonged the issue.
Let us now move forward. The matter is now sub-judice to the court with some of our finest judges on board. The tone of the panel is to get to the bottom of the issue without unnecessary delays. In a court order it was spelt out that it is competent, to hear any petition that falls within the purview of fundamental rights and public importance an enunciated in the Constitution.
The decision of the Supreme Court to form a commission having the powers of the apex court to determine upon the issue under question is extremely critical. The Commission is being headed by an apex court judge. It means the commission holds the destiny of the nation and the direction it will take in their hands. It is an awesome responsibility.
I would like to refer here to a landmark case of R v Sussex Justices, Ex parte McCarthy, a leading English case that established the famous judicial guideline, “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.” It establishes the well-known principle that any decision showing a shadow of bias can be over turned on this ground alone.
Transparency in this series of transaction is what is being expected by the nation. “If the public can’t see justice being done, or afford the costs of justice, then the entire system becomes little more than a cosy club solely for the benefit of judges, lawyers and their lackeys, a sort of care in the community for the upper middle classes. We need to open up courts to the commons and ensure that the people in whose name justice is being done are able to see and understand how the laws under which we live are enforced.” (Heather Brooke in The Guardian, April 11, 2012)