|A Childish Attempt
To Play Sindh Card
by TARIQ BUTT
Unquestionably, this was the first time that a ruling party or the government of the day observed strike to violently protest a judicial decision that deprived it of a crony, who has been made chief of the anti-graft agency with the sole agenda of undoing several massive corruption cases against its bigwigs including President Asif Ali Zardari. The agitation was condemnable for the mere fact that it targeted the Supreme Court, which declared Justice (retd) Deedar Hussain Shah's appointment as Chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) illegal and unconstitutional.
The mayhem that resulted in unnecessary loss of lives and properties in the business hub of Pakistan in the wake of unwise and fiery statements of Dr Zulfikar Mirza, whipping up provincialism, will figure high in the "charge-sheet" against President Asif Ali Zardari in the time to come. This would be the blackest spot on PPP's record. Anybody who counseled PPP co-chairman to direct its Sindh chapter to protest this way was a confirmed enemy of the president and his party. It is indeed shameful and appalling for a party to resort to such parochialism that is no doubt a national political force and is not confined to Sindh whose interior part is its bastion of political power. The commotion demonstrated the childish attempt to play the "Sindh card" in order to gain petty political benefits. Every time, President Zardari feels the brunt of his own follies and blunders, he struggles to stir up sentiments in Sindh in his favour on the misplaced premise that he is being made victim of different conspiracies simply because he belongs to that province. His pristine objective is that in case he caves in under the burden of his own inanities and loses the government, then Sindh should rise for him. However, the point to be noted and deserving utmost attention is that the nomination of Deedar Shah, belonging to Sindh, was not shot down by the apex court because of his domicile. Obviously, the judicial decision has nothing to do with his ethnic background. The appointment was adjudged on the touchstone of the constitution and the law of the land.
Everywhere in the world it is undeniably the constitutional duty of the ruling party and its government to ensure law and order and take every step to maintain peace and harmony. When it fails to do so it has no right to remain in place. Nowhere ministers take to the streets against a key state organ that only performed its constitutional function. Protests, demonstrations and processions organized by the government give rise to anarchy and chaos that no state can brook. This becomes very grave when all this is done on the directions of the President of the country, who is supposed to be the symbol of the Federation. It was not less than a cruel joke and mockery of law when Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza, whose primary duty is to protect life and property in the province, because the main instrument in igniting agitation against the Supreme Court. The way he and his party colleagues spoke in the Sindh Assembly raised alarm everywhere. More frightening was the approval of a resolution by the Sindh Assembly that was attended by the PPP MPAs alone against the apex court and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who had moved the petition in the Supreme Court against Deedar Shah's appointment.
The sum total of the PPP protest against knocking down of Deedar Shah is that it wants complete closure of a multitude of corruption references against the president and several top leaders of the present government by installing a loyalist as the NAB chairman, come what may. The turmoil strengthened the impression that the man from a Larkana village is a committed party man, otherwise there would have been no hue and cry over his ouster by the PPP and the government could have instantly come out with a new name from amongst dozens of retired judges, some of them hailing from Sindh, to head the NAB.
The plans and intention of the government to bring to an end the corruption cases is not new. Rather it is being implemented from the very first day the regime came in place. At the very outset in 2008, it had tremendously slashed the annual funds of the NAB, which resultantly grossly affected functioning of the agency. Consequently, it has to wrap up many of its functions and the prosecution especially unprecedentedly suffered, leading to just acquittals and no convictions. Simultaneously, the government put the NAB under the control of the federal law ministry, which was headed by no less a person than Babar Awan, who has the reputation of being more loyal than the king. He took every step to discipline the NAB and emasculated it greatly. The government's contentment did not end here. It brought a crony, Javed Zia Kazi, as the deputy chairman of the NAB, with the aim of making him acting chief with the passage of time. When Navid Ahsan resigned last year after being pushed to the wall by the government in the wake of its consistent denial to implement the Supreme Court decisions and orders, it made Kazi acting chairman. However, the apex court shot down his appointment, reverting Kazi. The government did not shift him to somewhere else but kept him in the NAB to become him in-charge at some later stage. After Deedar Shah's nomination has been struck down, Kazi has again become the number one man in the NAB although he can't exercise the powers of the acting chairman in the light of the previous apex court ruling that had declared his appointment null and void.
During his five-month stay at the NAB, Deedar Shah did nothing that can justified his elevation to this office. The prosecution of corruption cases in the accountability courts became further patchy and half-hearted during this interlude. As a result, the accountability process was colossally harmed. Instead, every effort was made to damage evidence so that nobody is convicted and everybody is exonerated through courts. No movement forward whatsoever was made to write letters to the Swiss authorities to reopen the money laundering cases against President Zardari. Nothing positive can be counted that qualified Deedar Shah to remain in office.
While the PPP harshly condemned the judicial decision day in and day, it doesn't talk about its own stupidities in nominating Deedar Shah as the NAB head. Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, who is all powerful and the president just a figurehead after the approval of the 18th amendment, he himself admitted that the appointment was made by Zardari and he was asked by him to consult with the leader of the opposition about it. At one stage, he said he has nothing to do with the nomination. Now the question arises: Is this the discretion of the president to nominate NAB chairman after Zardari has been divested of all powers. No, it is not, and he is bound to act on the premier's advice.
It may be a shock for the PPP that none of its allied parties stood with it on attacking the apex court and the judicial verdict on Deedar Shah. In fact, Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) supremo Altaf Hussain appealed for calm and peace in Karachi on the day the PPP had given the strike call. He opposed the damage to the life and property. At no stage, the Awami National Party (ANP) supported the PPP in its tirade against the apex court. Almost all political parties scoffed at the government for needlessly locking horns with the superior judiciary. Even Supreme Court Bar Association President Asma Jehangir, who is
labeled as pro-government by her detractors, took a serious exception to the PPP's protest and said it should accept the judgment.