By Munir M Hasan, PhD
The judgment of the honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan on Panama Papers case has been announced. It is of course a matter of satisfaction and happiness for the people of Pakistan that a corrupt ruler of Pakistan has been disqualified, but still there are some aspects of this decision which are not very satisfactory. I have been trying to understand them and after deliberation for a couple of days I am now in a position to write something about it. My observations are as follows:
- The former Prime Minister has been declared “not honest in terms of Section 99(1)(f) of the ROPA and Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan”. Basically, Article 62 of the Constitution of Pakistan is there to determine the Qualification for membership of Parliament, and Article 63 deals with the Disqualification of membership. Disqualifying him on the basis of Article 62 for hiding some information at the time of filing his nomination papers during parliamentary elections of 2013, is a judgment on the violation of election rules and it is not a disqualification on the Panama Papers case.
- Hiding some information before the authorities is such an offense which is usually done by a large majority of people even in ordinary life. Many service personnel in Pakistan do a part-time or full time second job, or are involved in a business to ease their livelihood. However, this second job is never declared. Businessmen and industrialists never show their full income. Even in civilized countries many people, in addition to their regular jobs, earn some money working on cash. And many, if not all, do not declare this cash income. So, this charge is not as serious as many other offenses of the former Prime Minister.
- During this hearing, there were many much stronger points on which the Prime Minister could have been disqualified. These may include, lying before the honorable Court, forgery and filing forged documents in the Court, and the circumstantial and documentary evidences of his and his family’s corruption during his tenure as Prime Minister, which could have made him liable for disqualification under Article 63 of the Constitution. Strangely enough, these serious offenses have not been considered for his disqualification.
- Disqualification under Article 63 not only would have made the Prime Minister disqualified, but also some members of his family would have been disqualified. Disqualifying him under Article 62 seems to be a special favor to the former Prime Minister and to his family.
- In the initial stage of this hearing, many senior learned lawyers and some former senior judges of the apex court have been giving their opinion that there were so many clear evidences before the court that the decision could have been announced in a week time. However, it took almost 15 months to decide the case only partially.
- I said “partially” because only the disqualification of the Prime Minister has been announced. After the investigation by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) many strong documentary proofs are available against the former Prime Minister and his family. However, no punishment has been announced for the Prime Minister and to any member of his family.
- The references have been ordered against the former Prime Minister and his family members for investigation by the NAB and decision by the NAB Court. The NAB has already been declared as “Dead” by one of the honorable Judges of the Bench. What wonders a dead body can do? It is anybody’s guess. Even if a Judge of the Supreme Court supervises the working of this proceeding, he will only make sure that this trial is completed in the allotted time, but he will never be able to influence on the NAB to make fair cases for the trial.
- Even if the NAB Court does not request for the enhancement of the allotted time of six months and these cases are decided within the allotted time, then there will be a chain of appeals and reviews which may take years to finally decide the cases.
- Disqualification under Article 62 of the Constitution of Pakistan is not a punishment. Article 62 only deals with the eligibility of a candidate to contest the elections. So, if the court proceedings for 15 months with all the proofs of corruption could not punish one person – the “Don of Corruption” and “Head of Scicilian Mafia” – then how much time will it take to punish a few hundreds of those whose name are given in the Panama Papers, and thousands of other corrupt persons whose names are not given in Panama Papers?
The two elephants are still strong and healthy, and the field is still open for their fighting. I don’t want to disappoint the people of Pakistan. I have only expressed my assessment of the events. This happiness of the people of Pakistan may not last for long time.