A tale of two trials  

A tale of two trials   


We know the Panama Papers leaks weren’t a conspiracy.

We also know that the Parliament had an opportunity to take the correct course of action in forming a commission of inquiry to probe the leaks. The deadlock ensuing after ruling party’s stubbornness in not starting the probe from the first family ended with the SupremeCourt agreeing to hear petitions that culminated in the first verdict on April 20, the JIT probe and then the second verdict on July 28. The Sharif family now faces a trial in accountability courts over charges of corrupt business practices. All of this is out there and on the record.

But there is the other side of the story that has been highlighted by Senator Pervaiz Rasheed as he finally weighed in on Wednesday on the disqualification of former Prime Miniser Nawaz Sharif. The Senator’s statement has strengthened the impression held by many who uphold republican principles of democratic governance that the balance between elected and unelected institutions remains firmly in favour of the latter.

Rasheed has linked the disqualification of the former Prime Minister to General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s treason trial. We are neither endorsing his claim nor casting aspirations upon the apex court’s ruling. But we do want to draw the honourable Supreme Court’s attention to this other narrative.

Fortunately, the related facts are quite well known. As a first in this country’s legal history, a civilian government had put on trial a former military dictator on charges of high treason. Today, the trial is dead and the treason suspect is issuing statements that get airtime on primetime TV. And he has himself claimed that his former institution has helped him in his hours of need.

The Panama Papers leaks have highlighted money laundering, abuse of public office, and squandering of public wealth — all of which are grave crimes and should not go unpunished in a functional criminal justice system. But compared to these, treason and abrogation of the Constitution are acts that tear apart the very social contract — between the state and its citizens — that is the basis of the criminal justice system. 

We admire the honourable Supreme Court for having gone out of its way — literally rather than just figuratively since it heard the Panama petitions under its original jurisdiction — in starting the process of accountability with the then first family. But we expect nothing short of this enthusiasm from the apex court in pushing for the resumption and conclusion of what today remains the most important yet unfinished trial in this country’s history. And the apex court may not even have to go out of its way to achieve that since fundamental rights of the citizenry are compromised the moment Constitution is abrogated.  *

 

 

Published in Daily Times, August 19th 2017.