No, Nawaz Sharif must not be allowed to complete his term, if democracy is to prevail

Published: July 19, 2017

File image of Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif. PHOTO: REUTERS

(This article is intended as a rebuttal to the blog titled “Nawaz Sharif must be allowed to complete his term as his dismissal will do no good.”)

I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed when this article caught my eye. With the wave of antagonism and criticism of Nawaz Sharif that has swept social media following the release of the infamous so-called joint inverstigation report (JIT), it is always interesting to see pockets of support for the embattled prime minister pop up every now and then.

However, to my surprise, the article advocated allowing Nawaz to remain in office. Not out of political allegiance, but based on the fact that in order to maintain our democracy, Nawaz must be allowed to complete his term as “the wheels of democracy, no matter how flawed, must be allowed to roll”.

And here is where the article is fundamentally flawed.

Democracy is so much more than completing a five-year term. Democracy means having a government and leader that are both accountable and subservient to popular opinion and demand. The minute a government fails to do that, it is, simply put, no longer legitimate. It’s as simple as that. And the JIT report (assuming that it is accurate) proves that the incumbent government has failed that very mandate.

If the claims of the JIT report prove true, then Pakistan will officially be a country being run by a group of individuals who have been convicted of enriching themselves with public wealth – our wealth – for their own personal gain. Now let’s think about what it would mean if, as per the article’s wishes, Nawaz remains in office and completes his term.

Firstly, we would be perpetuating the message that corruption is a crime that should not be punished if there is a benefit to the nation that can be derived from doing so. Sure, Nawaz’s dismissal might stoke political tensions which could be avoided by letting him remain in office. But then by that logic, taking kickbacks in infrastructure projects, turning a blind eye to corrupt civil servants and leaving crooked police officers on the street, are all perfectly acceptable, because in all those cases, there lies some benefit in not prosecuting them.

This should not be the case. Corruption is perhaps the greatest hindrance to our country’s progress and as such it must always be prosecuted, no matter the possible benefits in not doing so.

But more importantly, we’d be saying that our leaders are above accountability. This cannot happen. The only thing which separates a democracy from a dictatorship is that democracies are obligated to remain accountable to the public at all times. Alleviating Nawaz from that burden doesn’t strengthen our democracy, it destroys it, since it entrenches corruption into the highest levels of government. Accountability is our only weapon to fight it and if we set a precedent for future leaders and governments that accountability can be cast aside, then that renders us a nation powerless to even uncover, let alone prosecute, cases of corruption.

Our leaders shape our futures and success. We need to hold them to a higher standard than the rest of the public. The fact that the title ‘prime minister’ precedes Nawaz’s name means he has to be held more accountable to the law than a common citizen, not less.

The argument that Nawaz’s dismissal will cause political turmoil is one which, quite frankly, I both sympathise with and agree with. But that cannot justify preserving a flawed system and we need to stop pretending that short-term political stability is equivalent to having a stronger democracy.

It isn’t.

Now I am all for due process. No matter how convincing the JIT report may seem, I refuse to draw any conclusions about Nawaz before he has been given the opportunity to defend himself in a court of law. But should he be found guilty, then for the sake of our country’s democracy, Nawaz must leave office.

And yes, that will do a lot of good.

Salman Vellani

Salman Vellani

The author is a medical student, with a keen interest in Pakistani politics and current affairs.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • BaynaamKhan

    I am sorry but who are you to NOT ALLOW some one who won by taking 1.5 million votes ? Did you ask his voters first.Recommend

  • Ahmad Raza Khan

    i agree with you , this is not the right time to overthrow MNS , it should be left to voters to decide their future. On the basis of JIT report we can not say that MNS is corrupt as the report does not pin him in malpractices. It sees that MNS did not cooperate, it does not mean that he has committed. kindly , it is to the judiciary , please do not overthrow a PM. it is the same person who helped in the restoration of judiciary. we must remember and recall history. IK must not create an instance ,Recommend

  • Ahmed Ata Khan

    Do voters decide the fate of criminals? What is the justice department for? Are criminals allowed to rule if the get votes? Do you think our election system is transparent?Recommend

  • pervaiz nasir

    we voted for PMLn in 2013 election then how you are not allowing Nawaz Sharif to complete term under constitution. You can write a blog or cost your vote against Nawaz Sharif whatever you like but you cannot be allowed to dismiss govt on your wishes.Recommend

  • pervaiz nasir

    Yes, I fully agree. When there is less than 10 months for new elections what need to overthrow an elected govt and allow him to use Martyred. Peoples are very good judge to decide about fate of govt. Daily new experience is not good for country.Recommend

  • Kay

    in 2013 crime (Panama Papers) was not revealed, thats why you voted for him.Recommend

  • Citizen

    Do you need a law in the country or should just be free for all with no economic progress? Or you explain me why should rest of the population follow the law?Recommend

  • Citizen

    When Gilani and Raja Pervez were dismissed was that unlawful?Recommend

  • pervaiz nasir

    This is not the case of Law or Law implementation. this is the case as as had been happening with elected leaders in country from EBDO to Accountability law of Musharaf. If law is implemeted in Pakistan then why General Ayub, Yahya, Zia and Musharaf go with protocol and guard of honor. Hope you understood because puppets cannot dispense justice.Recommend

  • pervaiz nasir

    now if Panama paper revealed then again people has right to select anyone or throw out from power. People justice is far more better than selective puppet judges.Recommend

  • ab

    yes you are right. if we are civilized and cultured country he should go, but the problem is we are living in 3rd world country. People kick the leaders out, but our people are also corrupt to the core.Recommend

  • Humza

    I agree with you. The real thing Pakistanis have to understand is that we need to respect the views of the majority. I did not support PML N but I have since been convinced that the only path to development is to respect the views of the majority. If you look at the improved economy ( as written by western financial houses and economists), decreased violence and terrorism and improved standing as one of the world’s few Muslim democracies, Pakistan is doing better than it ever has in decades. From day 1, Imran Khan has been looking for a way to derail democracy. It’s not about corruption or accountability. I don’t for a second believe the JIT report. This whole thing is a witch hunt trying by hook or crook to unseat an elected PM. Give me a break, a few flats bought by a business 20 years ago for his kids doesn’t matter to me. It’s 2017 and tell me who with money hasn’t had off shore dealings! Change laws now like they have done in UK and the West. In UK no one has charged anyone under Panama Papers. What matters is the democratic system in the country and the importance of having election cycles – not a circus of dharnas and court cases. Why don’t people who want Nawaz Sharif out just convince people that he is bad and make sure they don’t vote for him? If people like Nawaz’s policies and development, they won’t. Plain and simple.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Hmm, @Patwari needs to stop personal attacks on commenters he disagrees with!Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    So just HOW did Team Sharif acquire wealth beyond belief (Billion $US) with no matching earned income trail, except by corruption???
    JIT report showed Team Sharif wealth increased from 20 to 80 plus fold with no paper trail! HOW?????Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    JIT is highlighting personal business matters & discrepancies of Prime Minister and his family! Please tell us just HOW Team Sharif’s wealth values managed to increase 20 to 80 plus fold with no income stream or jobs to account for it as mention in the JIT???Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Note that elected officials can be removed for corruption, forgery, fraud, tax evasion, etc!
    Did you even bother to read the JIT available online????Recommend

  • Parvez

    It is the same court that gave Nawaz a chance after a badly flawed election in 2013 to deliver for the people…..instead he delivered only for himself and his family and cronies. Now it is same court that is holding him accountable, as should be done in any self respecting democracy …… where is the conspiracy you allude to ?Recommend

  • ab

    DO you want to talk about calibri font?Recommend

  • ab

    are you sure about people justice? where people sell their vote for a plate of biryani .Recommend

  • Patwari

    Take a long walk to Ayodha. That’s on the bad side of Delhi.
    Then camp outside the hindu PM House. You might just
    catch a glimpse of your idol, The Butcher of Gujrat,
    whizzing by in an pedal rickshaw.Recommend

  • Patwari

    More like idlis and dosas on banana leaf.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Thanks for exposing your political afflictions.
    Heard YOU would sell it for a ‘chappati ‘ and dal..Recommend

  • ab

    I don’t like patwarisRecommend

  • Sane

    Good for digestion also.Recommend

  • pervaiz nasir

    You are trying to tell that Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan, Nazar Ghondal, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Mustafa Khar are fit to be elected to have an accountability of generals and other powerful mans in Pakistan.Recommend

  • pervaiz nasir

    JIT team did not show any point where Nawaz Sharif looted money or had kick back amount from any project. Even Justice Ejaz Afzal khan observed this during court hearing. If there is any case then Nawaz sharif should be trialed with due process and justice should be prevailed. thats OK.Recommend

  • Karachiite

    calibri font has been dealt with in court. Font was very much available to public and hundreds & thousands of people were using it when the said document was made.Recommend