All marks to the Prime Minister and his men for creating issues out of non-issues in the ongoing proceedings of the Panama corruption case. At issue now is a photo, apparently a screen grab from CCTV footage of Hussain Nawaz’s first appearance before the JIT formed by the Supreme Court to carry out further investigations into the mega corruption allegations against the First Family. The PM’s men, helped by a pliable section of the media, have been using the photo to allege it is intended to ‘humiliate’ the Sharif family, pointing the finger at the JIT, and indirectly even the SC. PM’s spokesman, Musadik Malik, did not hesitate to say, “since the JIT is functioning under the supervision of the judiciary, it is the responsibly of the judges to take cognizance of such things, which are creating doubts about the working of the JIT.”
The claim is that someone from the JIT purposely released the picture to go viral on the social media. By the same token, it can also be argued that the person responsible for it is someone close to the government-all the more so since the image has been exploited by the government to create an unnecessary controversy. In any event, the humiliation allegation would have made sense had Hussain been seen getting rough treatment – like ordinary accused are routinely roughed up.
A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. For the viewers can make their own judgment about a subject rather than to rely on someone else’s account of it. The picture in question shows the PM’s son seated in a comfortable chair. Sitting on a table by his side are a pen, a notepad and a box of tissue papers. By Pakistani standards, this is an exceptionally civilized setting for someone undergoing criminal investigations to be in.
Right from the start of the Panama case proceedings the government has been in the attack mode. After every hearing a ruling party team- aptly named as GGB (gali-galoch brigade) by Senator Aitezaz Ahsan- held a press conference outside the court to make all sorts of offensive comments on the day’s proceedings; the PTI leaders staged their own parallel show. Notably, under the law any comments during the pendency of a case constitute contempt of court. But for some inexplicable reason the court allowed this circus to go on. As the days and weeks went by, the PM’s men got more and more aggressive, using the judges’ remarks to brandish threats. At one point after an honourable justice observed that some pages from Nawaz Sharif’s book were missing, the Railways Minister Khawaja SaadRafiq roared back “no page is missing from the PM’s book if somebody can’t read, that is their problem”, and further that “we have iron teeth whosoever tries to chew us will break his own teeth.’ The court let even this one pass. (To digress a little, considering that once a judgment is announced, fair comments on the merits of a decision do not amount to commission of contempt, it can be said the April 20 court judgment that led to the formation of a JIT to carry out further investigations was unnecessary. Since the Prime Minister had claimed in his National Assembly speech on the issue that “all documents are there [in his possession]” one wonders why was he not summoned to present the same. That would have settled the matter either way; there was no need to drag on the case by forming a JIT-especially given that the NAB law puts the onus on the accused to prove his/her innocence.)
After the court in its wisdom decided to form a JIT, all guns were turned against the investigators. First, objections were raised about its two members’ credentials and then Senator Nehal Hashmi delivered a menacing tirade against the JIT as well as its appointing authority, the Supreme Court itself. For two whole days the government took no notice of its senator’s utterly outrageous rant. Only after the court took suo motu notice that – for appearances sake – it went into action, announcing that Hashmi’s party membership was cancelled and that he had resigned his Senate membership. He has since changed his mind.
It is pertinent to recall here that only a few days earlier, the Interior Minister had invoked a constitutional provision that forbids bringing into ridicule the armed forces to order a FIA crackdown on social media users accused of making fun of the military leadership for backing down in the ‘Dawn Leak’ case. The same article of the Constitution also forbids bringing into ridicule the judiciary. Hashmi had gone several steps further to threaten all those investigating the PM’s family, the judges, JIT members, as well as their children with dire consequences. Yet the minister remained quiet. The man should have been in jail for committing a grave contempt of the court whilst the legal process moved to try him for threatening to harm the JIT members, judges and their children. Instead he is free, and blabbering on.
Knowingly or unknowingly, some in the media have been advancing the government strategy to make even this case controversial by taking out of context the judges remarks likening the government to Sicilian mafia. The honourable judges while taking notice of the ruling party senator’s threats had voiced a very valid and common concern in telling the Attorney General “it is not our custom to bring our children into our fights. … Congratulations, Mr Attorney General, it seems that your government has joined the Sicilian mafia.”
So far the strategy to make controversial every aspect of the case seems to be working. Which has encouraged conspiracy theorists to opine that it is all part of a plan-the purported plan being to create issues out of non-issues to have the PM and his family look like the victims of a ruthless accountability process so in the likely event, goes the argument, they get a clean chit no one can complain about it. Meanwhile, all others wait with bated breath, noting every little detail of the developments, to see how this battle ends.