Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Panama Leaks, Nawaz Sharif's quagmire

.Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan belongs to a Lahore based Think Tank.


Panama leaks, Nawaz Sharif’s quagmire

Having effectively controlled Imran Khan while PPP in his pocket, Nawaz Sharif looked invincible in March when suddenly Hussain Nawaz acknowledged his property in London. Some considered it Hussain’s naiveté while those knowing the family well suspected something strange coming. A few days later it came out as Panama leaks and the open secrets of Nawaz’s dubious financial history lay out in the open. To control the damage to his reputation he addressed the nation but it didn’t work. Later he addressed again and it got worse. Yesterday he spoke in the parliament trying to diffuse the situation and made the situation even more indefensible quoting facts which he won’t be able to prove turning out to be complete lies, something outright suicidal. He is in a quagmire and must rethink his strategy as the old one isn’t working and neither he nor anyone else has unlimited time.

PM and his team has used nearly all the techniques available to a propagandist. He started with trivializing the matter making it look like Imran vs Nawaz, democracy vs martial law and not a corruption issue. Later he argued that others also indulged in financial irregularities but never gave any explanation himself. This was a strange strategy where he was incriminating himself as being in power for the last 8 years it was his duty to act against financial irregularities rather than indulge in shouting matches. This strategy effectively imparted an impression of a blackmailer who has practically confessed to his misdeeds. Trying to divert attention, creating a smoke screen and ad hominem etc. all failed. Since the days of strong support of Zia and Hamid Gul as CM Punjab bullying Pakistani PM, Nawaz has often boasted of being a front foot player suggesting that he plays aggressively. His cohorts attacked opponents viciously, the media and even national institutions (a bit subtly) but all these techniques working so well for the last 35 years not only stopped working but put him deep into the pit he was trying to come out of.

PM and his highly organized media team rightly argues that political office holders making offshore companies is not a crime, but neither is going to a bank wearing a face mask, but certainly very suspicious. Offshore companies are a known method of saving taxes by corporations/institution or expatriates but for individuals in public offices of 3rd world it is nearly always to hide their ill-gotten wealth. The rule of thumb here is to treat offshore companies of rich rulers of poor 3rd world countries highly suspiciously until proven otherwise.

Commissions are a way of gaining time and diffusing the issue in Pakistan. Nawaz has had exceptional luck whenever dealing with individuals particularly associated with judiciary which late BB called “Chamak”. Starting with the judgment against Tahir Qadri in late 80s to Nasim Hassan Shah’s judgement that was announced before the case started to the latest judicial commission on election irregularities, Nawaz was the beneficiary. Many call it management but I would refrain due to lack of credible evidence. However judicial commission has no place in this situation, it’s a political matter and decided politically. The accused should not appoint his judge nor should he have any place in determining its powers or TORs. Let’s face it the PM determines their privileges as that of the election commission. We have repeatedly seen its effects.

Over here contradictions between Nawaz, his wife, daughter, sons and allies’ statements are more than enough to convict him politically and he should be asked to resign. The only investigative commission needed here is to investigate any criminal misdoings that might take him to jail. Naturally, evidence needed for criminal conviction is always much stricter. No wonder Al Capone could only be convicted for tax evasion charges.

Democracy is important for the multiethnic and multicultural country like Pakistan. We have suffered a lot in the past due to military interventions and autocratic tendencies of our polity. Forgetting about Nawaz’s past democratic credentials which are very poor to say the least his current services aren’t desirable either. To begin with corruption itself and a barrage of allegations of corruption on elected officials is the worst enemy of democracy as it vilifies it and damages the trust between voters and politicians. Political parties where individuals are larger than the party wastes another cushion in democracies by making them ineffectual dealing with such crisis. In any country where democracy and corruption becomes synonymous, democracy can’t last long.

Now the situation is all follows.
Nawaz has confessed to his late father’s illegal money laundering. (in 70s taking $ out was a crime)
His sons have confessed owning Mayfair property since long.
His daughter has been proven to misstate as being property less.
His wife has given a different date of acquiring the property/
He has quoted facts in the parliament which he can’t substantiate. His use of an old picture as a proof of ownership of an industrial unit shows his extreme anxiety and distance from reality.
A pitiable situation indeed and worsening every passing moment.

During Imran Khan’s ill advised dharna Nawaz strangely didn’t concede an inch to his political rivals but offered everything to the military including the Indian initiative. Even now instead of taking moral high ground and resigning until cleared of allegations, he has started a mudslinging campaign against his political rivals further damaging the repute of politicians and thus democracy. Instead of a peaceful democratic change in parliament his confrontational attitude might be tempting many potential usurpers giving argument to those who think our democracy is not tenable. He is once again giving a message to his political rivals to accept him despite everything or he will ensure the demise of democracy in Pakistan, not a healthy approach.

Nawaz Sharif’s style of politics has worked exceptionally well for 35 years allowing him to get away with unbelievable situations where any of them could have politically ruined him. Provincialism, Changa manga, Johar town plots, physically manhandling the supreme court, taking money from agencies to name a few, instead of harming him got him PMship thrice and CMship of 60% of Pakistan innumerable times. Strangely after his phenomenal success nothing is working now, everything appears to be going wrong. Despite his team, resources and skill, PM is getting deeper in trouble and if he continues like this even his party N League, Pakistan’s biggest, might decimate. This is the way nature works, no one gets endless opportunities. Our president rightly said Panama issues has come from divine. Many opportunities have been squandered still there is time, although not much. PM must accept that his responsibilities are more than that of ordinary Pakistani requiring more scrutiny, he controls trillions of public money and not them. He should resign, inform the nation how he made this fortune, how he recently acquired expensive property controlled by Qatar and leave the decision to the people of Pakistan. Our people can be very forgiving and magnanimous. This time sincerity and honesty might win him elections.

Neither Nawaz Sharif nor Pakistan have many options or time left. Possibilities his confrontational strategy can lead us to are just too scary even to contemplate.

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