PAKISTANI DIASPORA IN
UK DIVIDED OVER SC JUDGEMENT
Issue Date 05 - 11 Aug, 2017 at 2:00 PM
The Supreme Court decision throwing out Nawaz Sharif is barely 48 hours old as I write this, and already experts are seeing more holes in it than a sieve. The arguments pointing out the holes are overwhelming and there appears to be little by way of reasoned answer.
Here in the UK, the Pakistani community is as divided over it as it perhaps is in Pakistan. Apart from the obvious division line between supporters of the PML(N) on the one side and its detractors on the other, there are a lot of politically uncommitted Pakistanis who appear to be torn on one side by their desire to see genuine accountability in Pakistan and on the other by the very obvious flaws in the judgement. It would, of course, have been infinitely more preferable if we had got where we are but by a process which had a little more by way of credibility.
The conspiracy element and the ‘hand of the establishment’ angle is one which seems to be latent – sometimes even not so latent – in much of the analysis of this episode in Pakistan’s history. The commitment to democracy and civilian rule here in the West being much stronger than it is in most south Asian nations, that was perhaps bound to be the case, more so in view of Pakistan’s unenviable track record. Not a single prime minister in its history has completed a five year term, and that has not been lost on anyone. Here was a case in which an accused was not even heard before judgment was pronounced against him, was not given the right of an appeal, a case in which the appointment of the Investigation team contained reps of the armed forces intelligence agencies when it is not clear what role they had, and above all, a case where a man was punished when the omission attributed to him was so clearly immaterial. The sort of respect that type of decision commands was clear in an op-ed piece in the New York Times which called the inquiry a ‘zealous inquisition’ and concluded by describing the Panama hearings as being ‘arbitrary and unfair from the start’. The attitude was even more dismissive in a CNN programme supposed to on Nawaz Sharif’s ouster. The specialist guest in the programme was introduced as an expert on off-shore accounts who, after a detailed explanation of how these worked and why they continue to work, was interrupted by the anchor who asked him what about Nawaz Sharif, which, after all, was the subject of the programme. The expert dismissed it in one sentence saying this was a political case and that there were powers behind it. He, of course, was more forthcoming and did not use the word ‘establishment’. He was not asked why he thought so or whether he had any evidence for such a conclusion. It was simply accepted as a given and the discussion moved on without another word on Pakistan – which is why the discussion was taking place. In fact, more was said about David Cameron whose father had an off-shore account from which the former British premier was receiving money.
That sort of dismissive discussion, where a political motive behind a decision given by the highest court in the land is assumed without discussion with no veils attached, does little for the country’s image. I myself have been on radio and TV programmes following the dismissal of Nawaz Sharif and the attitude of the compere has made it quite clear that the trial raised more questions than it answered. The issue of having reps of the intelligence agencies on the Joint Investigation Team comes up most often, but that perhaps is because most hosts do not know the details of the case and the decision itself.
Yet, some of the reaction abroad is quite different to Pakistan. For example, one of the issues that is brought up regularly is how democratic is it to have one’s brother succeed oneself as the leader of the party. One TV channel on which I was being interviewed brought this up as an issue raised by PTI chief Imran Khan and it was with a great effort of the will that I managed to control my laughter. Here was a man who has been unopposed leader of his own party for 21 years, talking of democracy. But then the favourite sport of the Pakistani political elite is to live in glass houses and throw bricks at each other with gay abandon.
What is lost in such politically motivated accusations is the fact that this sort of dynastic politics, albeit far from ideal, is par for the course all over south Asia – in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. I guess most people who make political accusations in Pakistan consider only how much good this will do to them in the context of Pakistani politics; no one gives even a passing thought how it will play out abroad and how much good or harm it will do to Pakistan’s image abroad.
I find it difficult to come to the conclusion that in the eyes of experts and analysts abroad, this decision has contributed in any way towards mending the tattered fabric of Pakistan’s image. Somewhere down the line, the nature and values of Pakistani politics have to change. And while many at home may be euphoric about the rise of a new dawn, abroad it does not quite appear to have caused even nearly as much optimism for the future. •
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