Editorial: For the record


—Business Recorder

Addressing his supporters at various points on his way back home via the GT Road, ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif has been complaining of being meted out unfair treatment, pointing an accusatory finger at the judiciary and, indirectly, at the military. While questioning the Supreme Court’s decision to disqualify him for non-declaration of an asset, his repeated grumble has been that in this country’s 70-year history “no prime minister has ever been allowed to complete their term in office.” That indeed is a sad reality. His own first government was prematurely dismissed in 1993 by the then president using the infamous Article 58-2 (b), inserted in the 1973 consensus Constitution by his patron, military dictator General Ziaul Haq. His second government was booted out in 1999 through a military coup. This is the third time his government has been sent packing, though through due process that his party and coalition partners see as unjust.

His ouster is unfortunate. Mercifully, however, the democratic process remains on track. But not many are willing to sympathize with him in his present predicament because of the role he himself played in the past in bringing down elected governments. As the leader of the opposition in the Senate, PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan, pointed out in the House last Wednesday, Sharif had participated in the dismissal of three PPP governments. First in 1990, he actively supported the sacking by then military-backed president Ishaq Khan of Benazir Bhutto’s government on corruption charges. Later, as the apex court’s judgment in the Asghar Khan case revealed, he received money along with other politicians in the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, from the military intelligence agency, ISI, to fund the new general elections to keep Benazir out. Then, again, in ’93 during Benazir’s second term in office, he had openly exhorted the then President Farooq Leghari to send her home and stated so on television, which he did. The third time, a PPP prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was disqualified from remaining a member of the National Assembly – like Sharif now – by the apex court, Sharif had publicly railed against Gilani, demanding that he show respect to the court verdict and stand down immediately. That, though, is not to say he has got the taste of his own medicine, only that politicians share the blame for causing political instability and creating opportunities for unsavoury interventions.

It needs to be recognized that the 2007 lawyers’ movement was a turning point in this country’s chequered political history. The judiciary is now truly independent. There is no reason to believe that there is a conspiracy behind the undoing of Nawaz Sharif’s political career. Like in any other case, the present verdict can be criticised but the judiciary must not be derided. Doing so is a disfavour to democracy. Nawaz Sharif, nonetheless, is absolutely right in calling for a constitutional amendment so as to hold judges and generals as well to the same standards of accountability as are set for members of Parliament. Towards that end, he has the support of opposition parties. That is where he needs to focus his energies rather than in mocking the judiciary.