If I were the Prime Minister of Pakistan I’d resign immediately after the announcement of Panama Leaks verdict by the supreme judiciary. Why? I think I would have had to do that because PML-N is the ruling political party and to make it more sustainable for future I’d quit. The supreme judiciary’s verdict on Panama Leaks is very much important in many aspects. One, I believe that the majority of the judges decided to take the issue in Joint Investigation Team (JIT) because of the legal concerns. Two, the majority of the judges were of the opinion that if they disqualified the sitting PM, it may be considered as unreasonable.
Although two senior judges – Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa and Mr Justice Gulzar Ahmed – believed that PM was no more honest, they decided to give time to PM to resign honourably. “Lack of honesty, suppression of truth and conduct unbecoming of a gentleman have often been considered in the civilised world as valid grounds for high public officers or personalities to quit the office or scene voluntarily…” (remarks given by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa in the Panama Leaks verdict). For this he gave numerous examples, starting with the Panama Leaks, “Iceland Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned on April 05, 2016” considering it the only option for a reasonable person. US President Richard Nixon resigned in the Watergate scandal when found guilty of misleading the nation. Another American president ‘Bill Clinton narrowly survived impeachment on the grounds of lying in the matter of his sexual relationship with an intern in his office’.
Justice Khosa gave 22 examples of traditional democracies and constitutional monarchies where prime ministers, ministers and other high officials resigned owing to their illegal practices which they performed while being authorised for many important functions. The higher the post one enjoys, the higher the responsibility lies with it.
Three, the verdict in fact suggests that the Pakistani PM should resign voluntarily, understanding the gravity of the situation. Not resigning is not only going to undermine the situation in the country but also set a wrong example for the upcoming generations of not accepting the rule of law. Time is still there to rescue the prestige of the party and, above all, of the country as PM Nawaz Sharif himself suggested the same thing to the ousted PM Yousaf Raza Guillani of Pakistan People’s Party before 2013 general elections.
The IK Factor
The sit-in IK did in 2014 for 126 days was the foundation for destabilising the Nawaz government and ended with Army Public School massacre on December 16, 2014. He ended the sit-in owing to the security conditions of the country. Now, Imran Khan has announced a public meeting in Islamabad. But this time, it would be entirely different from the 2014 sit-in because Imran Khan’s point regarding corruption of rulers among the major reasons of the lopsided development of the country has already been established through the Panama case decision. The unevenness and inequality are getting worse in Pakistan, raising eyebrows against the ruling elite.
Supreme Court’s verdict has given the edge to Imran since it was him who declared war against corruption in the country by submitting the petition in Supreme Court, although later Jamaat Islami amir Siraj ul-Haq and Awami Muslim League chairman Sheikh Rasheed also joined the company.
Undoubtedly, it is a war among the ruling elites in which one side of the elite is challenged by a charismatic leader under corruption charges. The challenger is not an ordinary man but a great cricketer-turn-politician, backed arguably by the majority of the youth of Pakistan. It is not a war between leaders and the led but a war between different factions of the ruling elite.
Former president Zardari has always had his own axe to grind in the prevailing situation. Although people have become aware that both PPP and the PML-N are favouring the specific interests of their families and friends yet the reconciliatory behavior of Asif Ali Zardari may come to surface to damage Nawaz government further. Imran Khan has also challenged Zardari in his recent address in Dadu where he said that he’d go after Zardari now. Liaquat Jatoi, former PPP minister, also joined PTI on the same day when Imran had a public meeting in Dadu on April 22.
Advice for Nawaz Sharif
Nawaz Sharif has to appear before the joint investigation team in for the inquiry now along with his two sons. This is humiliation in fact, and the PM must realise it. Lahore High Court and Supreme Court bar associations have announced that PM Nawaz Sharif should resign immediately.
In the prevailing circumstances, I would suggest Nawaz Sharif to immediately step down considering it a matter of national interest. He can set the example and let the people decide in the 2018 election who they want to elect as their ruler. This under pressure resignation may favour PML-N in the longer run. Otherwise, resignation of Nawaz Sharif is inevitable anyway as the JIT cannot work under a PM who himself is a party in the case. Mass movements of 1969 and 1977 are there for a lesson to be learnt for every wise person and I am sure Nawaz Sharif would consider the option for rescuing the PML-N from any further decay.