Friday, October 26, 2012

Daily Times Editorial Oct 24, 2012

Rumbling on Since the Supreme Court (SC) verdict in the Asghar Khan case, the PML-N appears to have been placed on the back foot. In defensive mode, the party and its spokesmen have been literally flailing in the water trying to offer their mea culpa and shift the focus onto alternative ways of following up on the SC verdict as well as throwing red herrings in the path of its implementation. To illustrate, sometimes the PML-N argues that the verdict does not indict the PML-N or the Sharif brothers, only those who violated their oaths of office, at other times they shift the focus of their counter-attack on doubts about the impartiality of the FIA, whom the SC has charged with investigation of the politicians alleged to have received funds from the ISI to manipulate the 1990 elections against the PPP. Demands are flowing thick and fast from a perspiring PML-N leadership that the UN, some international institution or an independent commission should conduct the investigation, i.e. anyone but the FIA. Their reasoning is that the FIA is not independent, is under the control of the PPP, and therefore not an impartial arm of the state. However, what this line of reasoning is ignoring is that the FIA investigation will be conducted under the watchful eye of the SC, the very apex court the PML-N otherwise swears by. The PML-N is also reportedly weighing its legal options, including the possibility of a challenge to the SC verdict through a review petition. They have even thrown the hat of the manipulation of the 2002 elections through illegal use of funds as revealed by General Zamir into the ring. The question remains however, whether the wheels of justice, admittedly long delayed, now that they have begun to grind, will grind ever so fine or not. Can the PML-N, and all those politicians named in the verdict, be able to escape the seemingly inevitable advance of the juggernaut threatening to spoil the best laid plans of (some) mice and men? The PML-N’s critics, especially the PPP, have thrown their weight behind the argument that all these are nothing but delaying tactics by the PML-N, the latter hoping thereby to stretch the process so far as to become lost in the tug and pull of the upcoming elections that are quite capable of overtaking the investigation before it has reached any conclusion. Nevertheless, whether the case achieves closure before the scheduled elections or not, the outcome of the case has certainly damaged the PML-N’s electoral prospects. The SC’s verdict is not only historic therefore in the principles it has enunciated against the interference by powerful individuals or institutions in the democratic process, it is also historic because of the implications for the political lay of the land in and after the upcoming elections. While a former (late) president, former COAS and former head of ISI have squarely been put in the dock by the verdict, some worthies have escaped the attention of the court for being outside the scope of the questions being addressed in the petition. For example, the role of former ISI chief General (retd) Hamid Gul, that champion of jhadi extremism as an instrument of power projection by the Pakistani state and advocate of extremism inside Pakistan, has failed to find mention. Perhaps the can of worms the SC has opened may yield richer ore when the investigation gets going and might well rope in all the ‘peripheral’ (to the case in question only) actors whose contribution to the derailing of the country from the path of genuine democracy begs to be exposed too.

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