Pakistan went in a frenzy yesterday when the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), constituted by the larger bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan after the Panama case verdict, submitted its report that was also later made public.
The report had damning findings and thus recommended further action against the Sharif Family, including Hassan, Hussain and Maryam Nawaz.
Major highlights of the report concluded that PM Nawaz and his family owned assets more than their known income. Also, Maryam Nawaz submitted ‘fake’ documents regarding the family’s properties, committing a criminal offence. There were also new offshore companies unearthed, especially one chaired by the PM. The Sharif family’s wealth did not justify the losses their enterprises were incurring, and thus it made little sense on how the wealth was accumulated. Finally, the report found that there was no weight in the letters provided by the Qatari prince.
As expected, the report attracted two kinds of responses from twitter and the media houses.
The first – and the dominant camp – celebrated the report, calling it a major milestone in Pakistan’s history of justice and accountability. This camp was also of the view that the evidence in the report was so damning that PM Nawaz lost any moral authority or credibility to continue as the chief executive of the country.
PTI's position on Panama Papers since day 1 has been vindicated today as JIT report findings come out. NS lied to nation, parliament & SC.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) July 10, 2017
The second, most probably sympathising with the ruling family (and their party), argued that the report showed nothing but prejudice against the Sharif family. So much so that critics of the report spent hours and posted scores of tweets merely criticising a forensic finding on the use of an MS Word font. Ironically, the Wikipedia page on Calibri font was edited dozens of times in a single day, just to prove that it was invented in 2004. Yet, according to many sources, including a tweet showing a Microsoft correspondence, proved that the font was only made public in 2007.
— Beenish Saleem (@BeenishSaleem) July 10, 2017
Report gets out before the report is allowed to be out. Report findings are what Opposition predicted.
— Syed Talat Hussain (@TalatHussain12) July 10, 2017
Now, one must ask, why is the PML N, and its supporting camp, trying to make the report controversial even before the honourable Supreme Court is yet to pass a verdict?
The answer is simple; make noise and create distractions.
In these distractions, rather than talking on the legal and technical points of the report, the ruling party is playing the decades’ old blame game crying foul and blaming PTI’s Imran Khan as the sole conspirator of this episode.
One must ask again; was it Imran Khan who commissioned the ICIJ to publish Panama leaks? or was it Imran Khan who constituted this JIT?
Rather than attacking the JIT and the PTI, wouldn’t it be wise on behalf of the ruling party to answer serious allegations (or convictions) made in the report, most important of whom was an official letter by the ministry of Justice of the UAE, negating all previous evidences presented by the Sharif Family.
Letter to JIT by UAE Ministry of Justice, denying any transport of scrap or money transfer records. pic.twitter.com/dtDPBNlQuG
— Rehman Azhar (@rehman_azhar) July 10, 2017
Even Ishaq Dar, close aide of the PM and the country’s finance minister under whom the Rupee saw a sharp decline recently resulting in major losses for local businessmen, was also not spared by the JIT. According to the report, the finance minister had not paid tax for two decades between 1981 and 2001, thus committing tax evasion.
But again, why would the PML N even try to respond in a legal language? After all, it would never suit their narrative, nor will it target their rural and urban voter base.
Their political rhetoric is the final straw that they have held on to. Their end game seems to be going down as political martyrs; and thus in the process gain as many sympathy votes as possible.
They also have the means to do so; in form of PTV and Radio Pakistan that cater to a majority of Pakistanis. But before any brazen actions, the PML N has a legal and constitutional right to defend itself, which it should properly avail.
Yet, on the other hand, if they go full throttle against the institutions and the Supreme Court, they would be playing with fire.
Luckily for Pakistan, neither is the current Supreme Court, the court of the 90’s, nor do Pakistanis rely on the state-owned PTV as their only source of daily news and information.
The Panama episode, resulting in the JIT report, has, at the very least, given a semblance of hope to the common Pakistanis. Pakistanis who would mourn the fact that elites were never held accountable.
Only time will tell whether the end result of this episode would bring meaningful change and pave way for institutional progress and consolidation in the country.
(Views expressed here are not endorsed by CRSS and are only the views of Blogs team and editors)