Contempt for the Constitution

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been sacked twice as prime minister on corruption charges. Now he faces yet another disqualification for corruption.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been sacked twice as prime minister on corruption charges. Now he faces yet another disqualification for corruption.

Formation of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the PanamaGate case became cause for PML (N) party stalwarts to celebrate “victory” and start distributing sweets, indicative of a mindset totally devoid of reality.  While one appreciates the Sharif family members for appearing before the JIT and not plead some medical excuse or the other, once they started being interrogated reality sunk in. The PML-N is now attacking the JIT, and by extension the Supreme Court (SC), with venom, crossing all Constitutional bounds. Mixing facts with fiction, a motivated section of the media is shamelessly attempting to make the ongoing judicial process controversial.

The normally calm and collected Ishaq Dar losing his cool was shocking, reinforcing the public perception prevailing that the members of the Sharif family have reason to fear something. Maryum Nawaz kept repeating the political persecution theme “conspiracy theory by hidden hands”.  Even though she did not answer reporters’ questions after her interrogation on July 5, Maryum Nawaz was impressive in launched her political career.  Tutor extraordinary Jugno Mohsin should be proud of her star pupil.

Celebrating Eid in London, the PM called the JIT a “joke, a comedy circus”. Equate this with Senator Nihal Hashmi threatening members of the JIT and the SC judges, “We will not spare you!”?  The honorable judges of the SC opined that the incumbent government was acting like “the Sicilian Mafia, which would threaten judges”. When a bailiff of any court is obstructed from doing his duty, it is considered gross contempt of court with punitive action against those persons obstructing/threatening the bailiff.  The JIT is the bailiff mandated by the SC to carry out a detailed enquiry in the PanamaGate case.

The pattern of grave intimidation is reminiscent of two decades ago when contempt of court proceedings against Mian Nawaz Sharif were disrupted by a PML (N) mob, the SC that ransacked by the SC, the honorable judges in Courtroom No. 1 had to run for cover.  The 1997 judicial saga only ended when a split within the SC was orchestrated by the PML (N), Justice Saeeduzaman Siddiqui replacing Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah.  Saad Rafique made the rather absurd claim that “only in Pakistan these (Panama) documents were taken seriously, where an elected prime minister and his family were dragged into cases”.  Is Saad Rafique just acting dumb, what about the massive international fallout of the Panama Papers? Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson had to resign because of his ownership of an offshore company. So did Mihran Poghosyan, Armenia’s top bailiff, known as the Chief Compulsory Enforcement Officer. José Manuel Soria, Spain’s minister for industry, energy and tourism, was forced leave his post and as did the head of a state-owned bank in Austria, Hypo Landesbank Voralberg, etc.

The blatant political contempt for the sanctity of JIT’s criminal proceedings has encouraged a free-for-robber-take-all environment with increasing violations of the Constitution. Aimed at zero accountability of the unchecked rampant corruption and corrupt practices by Zardari and his cronies, repealing of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) in Sindh Province is tantamount to high treason and mutiny from a Federated edifice of a state structure. Despite attempts to misinterpret the 18th Amendment, the Federal Legislative List is unambiguous. It empowers Provinces to have administrative jurisdiction on its institutions but for accountability and criminality, Article 143 shall prevail over all the criminal laws.

Frustrated by the superior judiciary, the Sindh government has taken away Inspector General (IG) Sindh Police Allah Dino Khawaja’s powers for posting of key senior police officers.  Allah Dino’s “crime” is interfering with Zardari and his cronies from criminally using the police apparatus for promoting organized crime, corruption and terrorism in the Province. Serial 32 of Federal Legislative List empowers Federal Government to fulfill international obligations and not the Provinces. The UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) ratified by Pakistan makes it mandatory under Article 6 for Federal Government to establish Anti-Corruption Body to implement prevention of corruption policies, share knowledge with other jurisdictions and ensure necessary independence in accountability across its landmass.

The 4th Schedule Legislative List (Article 70[4]) Serial 56, ‘Offenses against laws respect to any of the matters’ is the jurisdiction of Federal Government. The sixth schedule whereby no amendment could be made with prior approval of President has been amended through Section 102- Eighteenth Amendment Act 2010, bestowing upon National Assembly (NA) to amend or repeal any Federal Act. At Serial 26 NAO still exists as approved NA Law. Extending it to the whole of Pakistan, Section 4 applies to all persons in Pakistan (all citizens of Pakistan) and persons who are and have been in the service of Pakistan including FATA. Unless this Section excludes Sindh, Article 143 (Inconsistency between Federal and Provincial Laws) still exists, ‘If any provision of an act of a Provincial Assembly is repugnant to any provision of Act of Parliament which Parliament is competent to enact, or to any provision of any existing law with respect to any of the matters enumerated in Legislative List then the act of Parliament whether passed before or after the act of Provincial Assembly or, as the case may be, the existing law shall prevail and the Act of Provincial Assembly shall, to the extent of the repugnancy, be void, has the overriding effect.”

The proviso of Article Section 142 (b) empowers Provincial Assembly to do legislation for criminal jurisprudence provided there is no conflict with Article 143 which covers criminal matters falling into the realm of inconsistency. Supreme Court validated NAO under Asfandyar Wali vs State Case in 2003 and also in 2013, its decision stands at a position of law when not reviewed.

Sindh government’s defiance of federal laws is very deliberate, a Pandora’s Box being deliberately opened for malafide reasons extension by the person most affected by accountability, Asif Ali Zardari.  The tragedy is that while Mian Nawaz Sharif is a decent human being who has not used the state apparatus for violent crime to fill his pockets, Zardari (and his cronies) have been invariably using Sindh’s Police for criminal purpose.  According to Uzair Baloch, Zulfiqar Mirza etc, Zardari has literally been getting away with murder.

Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has called for accountability of all “holders of public officials, this appropriately while presiding over a meeting of the Sindh Apex Committee.  “Discretion being the better part of valor,” CM Murad Ali Shah, fresh from repealing of the NAO in Sindh in the Sindh Province Assembly a day earlier, did not protest. If anybody can get to Gov Zubair Omar, please do explain to him the ramifications about Article 6 of the Constitution.

The writer is a security and defense analyst.

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