By Obaid ur Rehman.
2016 will surely be remembered as the “Year of Panama Papers”. In Panama Papers’ revelations, with the appearance of the names of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s sons and daughter, along with politicians and businessmen, it became the issue of the year, particularly for the opposition. Although the matter is still in Supreme Court, but apparently this match too seems to be slipping away from Imran Khan’s hand just like Elections’ Rigging case, though he has not lost yet and the final verdict is yet to come.
A couple of weeks ago on 9th Dec, Supreme Court of Pakistan decided that a new bench will hear the Panama Leaks Case, with a new Chief Justice heading the bench. This case continues to chase both of Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan till the announcement of the final verdict. So far the progress in the case has brought a sigh of relief in Nawaz Sharif’s camp and gave a lot of lessons for PTI Chief Imran Khan to learn.
Regardless of Supreme Court’s decision, Imran Khan must be given credit for keeping the issue of Panama Papers alive, highlighted and into the headlines. Since Apr 2016, Pakistan’s politics completely revolved around Panama Papers and thorough discussions, debates and heated talk-shows remained viral.
The Panama Leaks took the country by a storm and pressurized the PM Nawaz Sharif to make three back to back addresses, two to the nations and one on the floor of parliament. He also had an option to resign, nominate his trusted man as the Prime Minister and then return after clearing himself and his family from all the allegations related to Panama Papers. But he didn’t do that and preferred to remain as Prime Minister whereas in other parts of the world, the premiers of different countries immediately resigned readily after finding their names in Panama Papers’ List.
In initial days, Opposition and PMLN could not finalize collective Terms of References (TORs), which provided Nawaz Sharif a slight lead on overall situation. Then it was Imran Khan who became the real opposition and challenged Nawaz Sharif by giving the call of sit-in protests and took the solo-flight without the support of any other opposition parties.
Imran Khan did not get much required support from the other opposition parties when he gave the call for Islamabad lock down. Even his political cousin Dr. Allama Tahir-ul-Qadri also got much disappointed with Khan’s approach and went abroad. Upon Imran Khan’s decision of converting lockdown’s plan into thanksgiving rally after when Supreme Court decided to hear the petition, Tahir-ul-Qadri said that the issue of Panama Case has now been buried forever.
During that time, the opposition only provided moral support to PTI and that too when government used force and raided the houses of party members, but opposition was also against the Islamabad-lockdown plan. The most disappointing fact was the response from the PTI itself that the party leadership failed to mobilize people and instead preferred to sit on the mountains of Bani Gala.
Thanks to Chief Minister KPK Pervez Khattak for taking the initiative to proceed to Islamabad, crossing all the hurdles and courtesy to Sheikh Rasheed who used all of his political experience to create the motor-cycle scene in the narrow streets of Committee Chowk’s surrounding areas. If it had not happened, then it would have been the matter of much embarrassment for Imran Khan and entire PTI.
Imran Khan’s decision of going to the Supreme Court, itself released the political pressure from the Nawaz Sharif, as the decision divided the opposition in PPP and PTI camps, put the opposition’s Panama bill on the back bench and thus the movement from the platform of Joint Opposition could not be executed.
The PTI leadership and its legal team completely failed in assessing the situation of Supreme Court’s proceedings and the proposal for Inquiry Commission. PTI also failed in analyzing as why the government had kept its option open, went a step ahead in proposing day to day hearing by this bench and did not even oppose the formation of judicial inquiry commission. PTI should not have announced its decision of opposing formation of Inquiry Commission before 9th Dec’s hearing and should have waited for government’s reply.
Its announcement to boycott the commission and asking the bench to hear the petition on its own provided government to rethink its strategy for the hearing. It was Imran Khan who once asked for the inquiry commission over this issue, but later PTI opposing this option, ultimately gave PMLN and Nawaz Sharif a bit more reasons to sit relax. Imran Khan may have a point in opposing the commission, but in the end PTI played all it cards before the crucial hearing.
However, PMLN and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would be badly mistaken if they think that they now have an edge over PTI in this case. Panama is not only a legal case but it’s more of a political case too, which won’t die easily. It will continue to haunt Nawaz Sharif and PMLN in 2017 as well, till the final verdict provides them relief. Whereas, Panama Case will remain opposition’s main weapon and since 2017, is the year of election campaign for 2018 General Elections, the opposition could use it against the government and Sharif brothers in their political campaigns.
If Imran really wants to go into the next elections on the basis of Panama Leaks, he has to win the case from the Supreme Court. If he loses the case, he will lose all the moral justifications to accuse Nawaz Sharif for having offshore accounts and companies. Now Sheikh Rasheed also has to come up with few new predictions as most of his predictions did not come true. It may not be bad news for Imran Khan and PTI as the Panama Case will continue to haunt PM Nawaz Sharif, but this time it will be new bench, new Chief Justice and New Year. So, if Imran Khan has not lost the case, then victory also seems to be still far away from Imran Khan.
The writer is Islamabad based Journalist / Research Analyst and writes on Politics, Current Affairs, Social Issues and Sports.