Panama Papers Probe: Sharif Appears Before JIT
There was hardly any historic moment in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s appearance before the Joint Investigation Team as four Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) prime ministers appeared before the courts and one of them was sentenced to death. However, there was a definite moment of déjà vu when Sharif said that the time to pull the strings from behind the curtain is over.
There was no mistake in figuring out where the aim was: the usual suspects were ISI and MI who were represented by two brigadiers in the JIT. In Pakistan, the civil-military relations have two distinct patterns repeating themselves for the past 40 years. One, army never accepts PPP whenever they come to power and there is sense of panic in Khakis whenever PPP manages to win the elections despite a clear tilt of establishment against it. The guards are up and panic sets in. Safeguards are taken and PPP leaders are told bluntly where their domain of influence would be and it never included foreign, security and finance policies. The party hardly sits in the seat that conspiracies weaved by intelligence agencies start appearing and then the next two to three years , the party spends saving whatever power they got and finally they are booted out.
However, in case of PML-N and Nawaz Sharif, army goes to great length to steal elections for them and making sure that Punjab remains in the hands of PML-N and generally the honeymoon months are cordial. As soon as the PML-N or the PMO start asserting itself in matters of bringing in their own people to key posts, the tussle starts and by the time the first year and half is out the tussle becomes a visible friction. The difference here is surprise defiance with which Nawaz Sharif confronts the army. PPP subjects itself to coercion and shoves at the first incident but Sharif as he grows in office keeps getting defiant lets the tension simmers till the boiling point – without blinking. And then the moment comes whether you are PPP or PML-N you’re shunted out by 111 brigade.
Yesterday too, by saying “the tamasha of controlling the puppets from behind the curtain is about to be over,” and “the days of laying ambushes are over,” Nawaz indicated that like two previous terms he is ready for a fight till the end. In a carefully worded statement he also said that he was not fighting for his family or his businesses, he was fighting for the future of Pakistan which according to him was in precarious state. From where Sharif and his party was getting the energy and will to fight was anybody’s guess. Last time it turned out they were Saudis but this time …your guess is as good as mine.
Sharif’s term ends in May 2018. Elections are never held in Pakistan in summer so it means by November or December Sharif would dissolve the assemblies and call elections. Yesterday was a high day for Sharif and his party as they collected sympathy factor from the hearing aftermath but it will be short-lived. The challenger and contender for Punjab Imran Khan is waiting in the wings. His party is gaining real popularity in the province, so any negative verdict from the Supreme Court could signal political end of Sharif.
The JIT has already summoned the younger brother and Punjab supremo Shahbaz Sharif and after that interview it will be time to submit a report to Supreme Court. The court can play a role here in cooling down things and gauging the direction of the winds. It can reverse the judgment, frustrating Khan and his PTI or it can deal the PML-N and Sharif a decisive political blow by announcing a negative verdict. Anyway, this summer looks longer than usual for the Sharifs.