What can we learn from Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification?

21 Aug 2017

As it turns out, plenty.
PML-N’s supporters and political workers have been expressing a variety of concerns with regards to the Supreme Court’s decision, and the party’s think-tanks are now engaging in discussions focused on uncovering the reasons for the ex-Prime Minister’s disqualification, to use this as a learning experience for the future candidates. An analysis of the Supreme Court’s order is crucial to understand to achieve this goal,


First and foremost, it is important to understand that the Supreme Court’s decision has two clear parts, on the basis of which Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif hereby stands disqualified. The first part is Section 12 (2) f of the Representation of the People Act, 1976 (ROPA), according to which, every candidate contesting the elections is required to declare their assets. From Dubai’s FZE, this is evident that Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif failed to disclose information about his pricey assets. If we look at the state of politics in Pakistan, it is evident that our politicians still seem to be living in the 90’s. They have failed to realise that coming to power does not mean that legal documentary requirements can be ignored. Today, un-fulfilment of these seemingly insignificant or unimportant legal requirements does indeed render holders of political office disqualified. This is the same issue faced by people from the earlier eras: they become prisoners of the past and fail to comply with the dynamics of the modern day. In modern politics, having an awareness and sense of urgency about all legal and documentation requirements while running for office is of utmost importance. At large, the public of Pakistan also has a negligent mindset towards documentation. For example, in situations when one has to acquire a loan from a local bank, one continues to sign documents upon documents without properly understanding their legal consequences. What the common man can take away from Nawaz Sharif’s experience is the sense of awareness and presence of mind to evaluate all documents they become signatories of.


Clear and thorough understanding of the law is also a prerequisite in today’s political world. Historically speaking, a large number of well-established politicians have been astute practitioners of the law. Such practitioners were often aware of the importance of words. Thus, for the future, the lesson to be learnt is that if one intends to become part of the political world in Pakistan, then a grip and conceptual understanding of legal matters is imperative. Those politicians who are not law-practitioners must acquire services from adept legal professionals. Doubtlessly, PML-N does not have a dearth of legal professionals; however, the question to ask is that were those professionals taken into counsel before decisions are taken by the PML-N leadership? If they were indeed included in the decision-making process, then to what was the level of power they had? Regardless, the moral of the scenario is that politicians who are not legal professionals must acquire the service of adept legal professionals as advisors, as well as incorporate their technical advice into the decision-making process. Otherwise, those politicians may be subject to the same fate as Nawaz Sharif.


Every citizen must be aware of his rights and responsibilities based on the law and the constitution, and must also understand his role as part of a territory. The Supreme Court’s decision is evidence that politicians and citizens are aloof to legal matters, and therefore may run into crippling problems in the long-run.


Now let’s analyse the second aspect involved in the disqualification of Mian Sahib. There is no doubt about the fact that Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973includes the clause mentioning  the terms ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Ameen’ .These terms were clearly incorporated into the Constitution during the dictatorial regime of General Zia-ul-Haq. Realistically speaking, if one is to examine citizens in modern society then, hardly anyone would qualify as ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Ameen’. According to some political spheres, basing the disqualification of the Prime Minister on a clause which was introduced by a dictator, and which would disqualify most Pakistanis from office is rather harsh. However, all such claims seem unjustified because for a judiciary, questions of if a clause should be part of the Constitution, or which law or clause is reasonable or unreasonable, are non-issues, and do not fall within its jurisdiction.


The judiciary is the custodian of the law, and has utmost responsibility to ensure that the law is obeyed and followed in its true spirit. As far as questions of applicability and legitimacy of laws are concerned, that is the jurisdiction of the Parliament. In context, an evaluation of the last few years reveals that our Parliament has been extremely ineffective in law and policy making, as well as in the polishing of the Constitution. Let’s take Article 62 (1) for example, through which anyone could be weighed on the scale of ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Ameen’ and be banished from the political stage permanently. It is quite disappointing that it’s been 30 years since Zia-ul-Haq’s plane crashed, and over 10 years since Musharraf’s tenure ended, yet our politicians are still to cleanse the Constitution of the pollution of dictatorial rule.


A typical excuse the politicians present in defence of their appalling performance is a policy of reconciliation. However, in reality, what they claim is reconciliation, is in fact a compromise on national principles. Have our politicians not understood that appeasement on the cost of principles only leads to humiliation? On the other hand, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and Benazir Bhutto never compromised on principles, and indeed, gave their lives for Pakistan. Today, we know them as martyrs, whereas, humiliation and desolation has become the fate of those who gave into external pressures.


Do our politicians think that they are immortal? Every soul shall taste death, eventually, and therein, a respectable death is by far better than a life of humiliation. If you’re not headstrong and staunch enough to stand by your principles, then you should think about avoiding entering the political sphere in Pakistan. A peek into history makes us recall how a dictator like General Musharraf had to leave the country; if not a compromise on principles then what else was this? If Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif had taken up a staunch stance in his case, even if he were to be dethroned, he would have been remembered in history. Tipu Sultan said so aptly that a lion’s life for a day is worth more than a jackal’s life for a hundred years.


Reverting back to the discussion of ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Ameen’, it is quite saddening to see that the Supreme Court has decreed that the 3rd-time elected Prime Minister of Pakistan is not ‘honest’ and ‘trustworthy’. Why did Mian Nawaz Sharif not focus his energies over the last four years to develop a correctional mechanism for the Constitution of Pakistan? He had ample time, in addition to the friendly opposition in the shape of the Pakistan People’s Party. If he had taken them on board and moved towards Constitutional rectification, today he wouldn’t have found himself in a situation where the very same clauses were used to declare him disqualified. I have written time and again about Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), another controversial law, which has tainted the Constitution. Nawaz Sharif’s government adopted a policy of appeasement and reconciliation with regards to the FCR law, a law which deprives the people of FATA of the most fundamental and basic human rights. What can be a grosser injustice than this? Appeasement over this injustice to avoid displeasure of a few political affiliates is indeed untenable. And yet, what was the result? Nawaz Sharif still lost his seat. Had he lost his premiership on the stand for the abolishment of FCR, would have yet been a far more respectable outcome.


On the other hand, those politicians who are speaking against the judiciary today need to evaluate themselves and try to understand why they haven’t worked towards amending the Constitution. Why do they not understand that a policy of appeasement and reconciliation over principles only leads to humiliation?


These lessons are not only for our politicians, but also for our masses. The time has now come, for politicians in specific, to get into a state of harmony with the socio-political dynamics of the situation in Pakistan. Additionally, they must understand that the Constitution is the spirit of the state, the presence of flaws in which will inadvertently restrict Pakistan’s growth and progress. Democracy cannot flourish till the negative influences of dictatorial rule are not filtered out of the Constitution. These very influences will eventually target all our political leaders, be it Imran Khan, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, or anyone else, and will curtail the nourishment of democracy. History will indeed repeat itself if politicians do not learn lessons from the past and the present.

Published in Pakistan Today on 21-08-2017

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