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Thursday Apr 20, 2017

It's time to talk about post-Panama

It's time to talk about post-Panama

Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League has reasons to celebrate. The majority judgment of the Supreme Court bench in the Panama leaks case did not oust the prime minister or passed any adverse stricture against him.   Two judges, out of five, called for the disqualification of Sharif from office for failing to be a 'sadiq' and 'amin' as required under the Constitution. However, the judgment of the majority – the other three judges - prevailed.

For those who expected the apex court to create a basis for the removal of the prime minister through the Election Commission, this verdict was anti-climatic. Sharif is safe.

One could argue that the majority judgment is an interim order as the case is still not closed. The court directed that an investigation team, headed by the Federal Investigation Authority's (FIA) Additional Director General, be formed to seek information from the prime minister's family about the trail and the source of their income. The report is due in the Supreme Court in the next 60 days.

In theory, the above analysis may be true. In practice, however, constituting a separate investigation team may be a subtle way out for Nawaz Sharif.

If Sharif and his family did not provide satisfactory evidence on the sources and movement of their funds to the Supreme Court, how would a probe led by junior ranking officers be able to extract this information? Let's not forget that the Additional Director General of the FIA is a government servant. He works for the federal government, which is headed by the premier.

It is highly unlikely that new evidence will emerge during the investigation. In all likelihood, the case will stay pending for a while.

In the aftermath of the verdict, both opposition parties, the PTI and the PPP, demanded that Sharif resign since two judges of the Supreme Court held him responsible for corruption. But the prime minister and the PML-N are not going to pay any heed to this demand now. They are instead in a triumphant mood. Also, words like 'ethics' and 'morality' do not matter much in Pakistani politics.

For all practical purposes, the Panama Leaks case is settled in favor of the PML-N. Sharif will be completing his term.

But this does not mean that Pakistan will now experience political harmony and stability. Rival parties would not let the PML-N rule peacefully. They will, separately, raise other political issues to build up street pressure. And this might happen sooner then we expect. Power outages are likely to intensify in May/June. Both political parties could come out on the streets to protest the government's lack of will in addressing the load-shedding crises. 

Meanwhile, the PTI will continue to raise the issues of corruption amongst government officials and their highly partisan use of state patronage.

Panama or no Panama, the confrontation between the government and the opposition will persist. Issues of governance, electricity shortages, stability, and political conflict will continue to haunt the ruling PML-N.

The Panama case may lose its salience over time and fade from our memory, but political uncertainty won't.

—Rizvi is an independent political and defence analyst

Views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Geo News

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