Pakistani Supreme Court Guilty Verdict on PM Sets Uncertainty

The photo is taken by personal photographer of Nawaz Sharif (Z A Balti)
The photo is taken by personal photographer of Nawaz Sharif (Z A Balti)

Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan has been disqualified from office. As the Supreme Court of Pakistan has found him guilty, he stepped down.

Last year, publication of classified document known as the Panama Papers revealed that he owns properties in London.

The documents against Nawaz and his family triggered controversy. PTI’s chairperson Mr. Imran Khan’s petition in the Supreme Court over the Panama Papers has finally pulled him down. The court also disqualified the country’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

Nawaz Sharif, however, wasn’t disqualified because of the Panama Papers, though. He has been disqualified based on the Supreme Court mandated investigation team’s findings that Mr. Nawaz is chairman of an offshore company in Dubai and reported to receive salary.

The Pakistani Supreme Court unanimously declared Nawaz’s disqualification verdict only because he failed to declare his un-withdrawn salary of AED 10,000 dirhams from Capital FZE in his 2013 nomination papers. This verdict, however, triggered a controversy.

Barrister Salahuddin Ahmed writes in Dawn, “Nawaz Sharif failed to declare his un-withdrawn salary of AED 10,000 dirhams from Capital FZE in his 2013 nomination papers. That was the only ground taken by the Supreme Court for disqualifying an elected prime minister.. If there was ever a judgement that begs review, this is it.”

Pakistan rolls back to the old cycle of politics with this new supreme court verdict. Since the country’s independence, Pakistan had 18 Prime Ministers in its long passage. All of these Prime Ministers were forced to step down prematurely.

Nawaz Sharif entered this club lately after the Supreme Court of the country found him guilty. Nawaz Sharif stepped down immediately after the supreme court’s ruling. This came as no surprise but saddened them, Nawaz’s daughter Maryam said after the Supreme Court declared the verdict.

History of military and court interference in Pakistani politics

Half the time of 69 years old Pakistan has been ruled by the military commanders. Military interference in the political arena of Pakistan has never been uncommon. In between 1950 to 1960, Pakistan had 6 Prime Ministers all of whom had been sacked by the military-civil bureaucratic establishment.

Military commanders Ayyub Khan, Yahya Khan and General Zia ruled Pakistan almost all of the cold war period. The Pakistani politicians of that period suffered. Former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came in power in 1973 after a long military tenure.

Mr. Bhutto, however, couldn’t serve long. He was ousted by General Zia. Mr. Bhutto was eventually hanged to death in 1979 amid international outcry. Mr. Zia continued his tenure until he died along with an American ambassador in a plane crash in 1988. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s daughter Benazir Bhutto was elected the Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1988 after Zia’s death. But she also was forced out of office in 1990 on charges of ‘incompetence and corruption’.

Nawaz Sharif served as Prime Minister from 1991 to 1993 and forced out by military. 1993 election brought Benazir back to power but she was again forced out of office in 1996. Mr. Nawaz wins election and comes in power in 1997. But Mr. Nawaz was again ousted by the military in 1999. In the October of 1999, Parvez Musharraf seized power in a coup. He ruled Pakistan until 2008. In February 2008, civilian government came back again in power with Mr. Gilani as the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court disqualified Mr. Gilani in 2012. Raja Parvej Ashraf becomes the new Prime Minister in 2012 after Mr. Gilani is fired.  Then, in January 2013, Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf over corruption allegations dating back to his time as a minister in 2010!

Nawaz almost got the better of Pakistan’s 69 years old circle

Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N won election in 2013. Nawaz Sharif was again elected PM. During these past few years, Pakistan seemed to get military days passed with a comparatively stable civilian government.

During these years, Nawaz lost his energetic contour and seemed rather slow and tired. But Pakistan’s democracy was moving forward. The military was apparently cooperating with the civilian government.

Now, Pakistan’s Supreme Court again disqualified another civilian Prime Minister because of his ‘un-withdrawn salary,’ risking the survival of democracy in a country where military loves to take in charge whenever they have a chance.

Urging review of the given verdict, Barrister Salahuddin writes, “If the Supreme Court applied the above standard to all, every single lawyer presently in Parliament would be disqualified if his unpaid legal fees were not mentioned as an asset in his nomination papers!”

New player in the bloc and a blurred tomorrow of Pakistani democracy

Nawaz’s departure could be seen as a gloomy event in Pakistani politics, but Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaf (PTI) chairperson, cricketer turned politician Imran Khan is probably the happiest politician now.

He has been campaigning to drag Mr. Nawaz down for the last few years. Now Mr. Imran’s route to power could be smooth unless powerful Pakistani army hasn’t already begun to exercise power.

Mr. Imran Khan, the new kid in the bloc, can still be the beneficiary of the current political crisis only if, the country’s power thirsty military restrains itself from seizing the control of the country, again.

About Masum Billah 37 Articles
Masum Billah is a Staff Writer for The GeoStrategists. A Graduate from the Department of International Relations at the University of Dhaka, Masum Billah is a human rights activist. He writes columns on human rights, foreign policy, and terrorism.
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