One Nation, Two Laws
One doesn’t need to be a law student or somehow linked with the law to know about two prominent and notable articles of our supreme law. Even a child today knows what Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution say. To make it to the powerhouses, one has to be “sadiq” and “amin”. However, our very respectable apex court has apparently created an exception to this recently.
Panama Leaks exposed a lot of world leaders and people on top posts last May. Most resigned and many of them were forced to do so in order to ensure fair investigation. But we (Pakistan) took exactly a year to even touch upon this huge scandal. Not suo moto actions, but dharnas and calls for strikes in the capital of the country forced “my lords” to act, by scheduling hearings on daily bases and giving a judgment after 57 days of completion of the trial. It was meant to hit the nail right on the head but has instead raised brows of many. The verdict seconds the PPP’s stance to bring law related to matters like Panamagate first, as, in his part of the verdict, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan wrote, “Political excitement, political adventure or even popular sentiments, real or contrived, may drive any or many to an aberrant course but we have to go by the law and the book.” Unfortunately, Imran Khan’s political immaturity has cost us a lot. Had he only stood by the PPP and demanded one such law as the Chairperson PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari did, the situation would have been much different today.
For “equality” under Article 25 of the Constitution, Justice Ejaz supported the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) so that Respondent No. 1, PM Nawaz Sharif, would “go through all the phases of investigation, trial and appeal”. I wonder where this principle of equality was when Yousaf Raza Gillani, the then PM, was given punishment of two minutes on the spot, though he had immunity. He was not even given time to file a review petition – the right which he had under Article 188 of the Constitution and the Supreme Court Rules 1980 Order XXVI. Reference to this case was given by ASC of the PTI, but the judges, at page 219 and 220 of Panama Case verdict, called the conviction of Yousaf Raza Gillani to be right and refused to accept it as the basis for the conviction for PM Sharif.
Not being satisfied with the role played by Chair NAB, the judges directed to form a JIT comprising of representatives of the National Accountability Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency, State Bank of Pakistan, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence in order to question PM Sharif and his sons. These are the same institutions whose heads had already stated clearly before the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that getting involved with the investigation of the case like Panamagate was beyond the scope of their powers and that “restrictions in their respective laws did not allow them to investigate such allegations.” However, despite their NOs, judges have ordered them to do so. How are the officers of 19th and 20th grade going to do what judges of the apex court could not do? Even in the previous four months, neither did Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appear before the Supreme Court nor was he summoned. So, is he going to appear before such officers? Every person doubts that. Furthermore, as has been claimed by the respectable judiciary before, this verdict is truly historic as for the very first time spy agencies are going to conduct an investigation into a financial scandal.
As per PLD 2010 SC 265, press clippings can be accepted as evidence. Article 164 of the Qanoon-e-Shahadat Order 1984 also states, “The court may allow to be produced, any evidence that may have become available because of modern devices or techniques.” This is the very same article based upon which, in 1998, the supreme government accepted pieces published – falling in the category of Op-ed – in newspapers as evidence and sent a democratically elected government packing [PLD 1998 SC 388]. One of the petitioners, Sheikh Rasheed, gave a reference to this case too and continuously kept on stressing upon the speech of the Prime Minister given in Parliament containing differences between his words and the words of his children in interviews. Though a member of Parliament is not answerable to a court or commission for what he or she says on the floor of the House (the Constitution gives him or her this immunity under Article 66), but he or she is indeed liable and questionable for lying on the floor of the House. If such evidence can be accepted against Benazir Bhutto’s government, what has stopped the judges from doing so now? Well, only God knows.
The outcome of Panamagate is expected to be no different than Hamza Shahbaz Sharif v. Federation of Pakistan (1999 P CrLJ 1584). The main purpose for which the JIT has been formed is to collect more evidence, as the evidence provided by the petitioners and respondents has been mentioned to be insufficient. But it seems very unlikely that the JIT would be able to collect any. Eventually, the respondents are going to be acquitted and the chapter of investigation and trial for allegations of corruption and money laundering is going to be closed abruptly, prematurely and unceremoniously.
Prime Minister Sharif is going to romp to victory – that’s what has always happened, history is a witness to such events. Kudos to Imran Khan – if only he had given up his ego in order to strengthen the opposition.
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