(Image Source: Daily-Pakistan)
Pakistan, Friday July 28, raised the bar of accountability when its apex court through a unanimous ruling disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for failing to justify his family’s ownership of four prime flats in London and on sources of his income.
A five member bench, which pronounced the judgement drew on the findings of a six-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that the court had appointed and tasked with completion of a deeper probe into the Sharif family’s moveable and immovable properties.
The court invoked a constitutional article which makes a member of parliament liable to disqualification if he or she conceals or understates financial matters or holds a profitable commercial office while in power. This way, Sharif became the first prime minister to be disqualified by the Supreme Court on corruption charges.
The Court also disqualified finance minister Ishaq Dar, a very close relative of Sharif, from holding public office for possessing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income,
His son Ali Ishaq Dar, according to JIT findings, holds big assets in Dubai and London.
Besides disqualifying Sharif and Dar, the Court ordered institution of three criminal cases against the prime minister as well as against his two sons and the thus far heir-apparent daughter Maryam Nawaz, who had been virtually spearheading an aggressive campaign since the emergence of the Panama Leaks and the beginning of the case last year. The apparent intent was to make the Supreme Court and the JIT findings controversial as much as possible.
But the unanimous decision Friday proved to be the last nail that finally punctured the Sharifs campaign and forced the three-time premier out of the office.
The apex court ruling, it seems, will be a watershed for rule of law and indiscriminate accountability in Pakistan’s history.
Also, the judiciary seems to have emerged as the new bulwark against financial corruption and abuse of power by the power ruling elites.
On the political front, Imran Khan, leader of the Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf (PTI), who had relentlessly pursued Sharif’s corruption and the panama papers, called the ruling ” a new beginning for a new Pakistan” on the road to a democratic and just Pakistan. Even though two other petitioners against Sharif – Sheikh Rasheed and Siraj ul Haq – are claiming this victory as theirs, it is unanimously believed that it was Khan who played a major role in keeping the case, and issue, relevant.
What finally came down to Nawaz’s undoing was a mere non-declaration of 2700 USD (10,000 AED) in his nomination papers, which he was supposed to receive as the Chairman of Capital FZE – an offshore company that was revealed during in the Joint Investigation Team’s final report. The following was what the Supreme court wrote in its verdict:
“It has not been denied that respondent No. 1 being Chairman of the Board of Capital FZE was entitled to salary, therefore, the statement that he did not withdraw the salary would not prevent the un-withdrawn salary from being receivable, hence an asset. When the un-withdrawn salary as being receivable is an asset it was required to be disclosed by respondent No. 1 in his nomination papers for the Elections of 2013 in terms of Section 12(2)(f) of the ROPA. Where respondent No. 1 did not disclose his aforesaid assets, it would amount to furnishing a false declaration on solemn affirmation in violation of the law mentioned above, therefore, he is not honest in terms of Section 99(1)(f) of the ROPA and Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”
The Pakistan constitution’s Article 62(1)(f) states that a person cannot be qualified as member of the national or provincial legislatures, if he is not ‘Sadiq and Ameen’ – truthful and trustworthy. This Article, first introduced by General Zia, was supposed to be removed from the 18th constitutional amendment, yet the PML N, along with other right wing parties, opposed its removal. Ironically, Nawaz has now become the first Prime Minister to be disqualified under this Article, or law.
The author is Executive Director, CRSS.