Given their (corrupt) record, why is the Sharif family being allowed to skip accountability proceedings?

Published: September 22, 2017
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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with his daughter Maryam Nawaz. PHOTO: ONLINE

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, along with his family, has fled to London. Now, this isn’t surprising news, because everyone’s safe haven seems to be London.

But you see, the Sharif family was discovered to be knee-deep in corruption and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has three corruption cases filed against them. The references filed are related to the Sharif family’s property in London and their two steel mills in Saudi Arabia. Since the filing has been completed, NAB can frame charges of corruption against the accused, thus the Sharif family should be in the country, rather than out of the country.

Normally, under NAB rules and regulations, if the convicted party fails to show up, Section 31A can be invoked. Section 31A states imprisonment for three years if an individual or party does not comply with the NAB or not show up when summoned. Thus, they should not be taken lightly.

But, unfortunately, no such action can be taken against the Sharif family since the Supreme Court had previously set such a punishment aside in case of absentia.

Thus, it is evident that the Sharif family pre-planned their trips to London and will skip all accountability court proceedings. They stated that till a verdict on the review petitions challenging the SC is not filed and decided, they will not feel obligated to attend the proceedings. So far, they have skipped two court proceedings. Judge Muhammad Bashir reissued summons which will bid the Sharif family to appear in court on September 26, 2017. Only time will tell whether the Sharif family will attend this or not. I personally feel they will not because they seem adamant about wanting to avoid the aforementioned accountability cases pending against them.

After hearing three corruption references filed against them on the orders of the apex court, Maryam Nawaz has brazenly stated that her father won’t appear before the accountability court.

Yes, because Nawaz is above the law, right? How is such a powerful institution of accountability being ignored? By doing so, the Sharifs are setting a dangerous precedent. They are putting themselves above the country’s institutions and legal system and are making a mockery out of it.

However, this doesn’t come as a surprise though, since we’re used to the Sharif family behaving in such a manner.

Almost all the corrupt political dynasties that have unfortunately governed our country have aggressively promoted and stood for the concept of immunity from accountability, owing to the ‘mandate of the people’.

But considering the brazen GT Road rally, post the Supreme Court’s (SC) decision and countless statements made by Maryam, it appears that the Sharif family has left the other families behind in their unabashed advocacy of corruption.

None of the others have adopted as appalling a stance as the Sharif family, who want to escape justice with the twisted logic that ‘only the people who elected us can hold us accountable’.

In other words, the Sharif family wants an open license to plunder, so long as they keep winning the elections by hook or by crook. They think they are above the law because the people chose them to lead. Such is their version of democracy.

Be it the extravagant security they enjoy at the expense of the taxpayer’s money or the dubious mega projects initiated with the sole purpose of boosting the family’s bank accounts, they do not want anyone questioning them or their way of ruling.

However, if the relevant authorities such as the SC or a joint investigation team (JIT) dare probe them, they play the ‘conspiracy card’ as proven by Nawaz’s open dissent post his disqualification, during which he uttered the most outrageous remarks against the SC, which is a clear contempt of court.

But the million-dollar question is, why do Pakistanis continuously elect such people to rule our country?

Well, quite frankly, they do not.

In the wake of the recent NA-120 by-election results, it might be difficult not to arrive at such a conclusion, but let’s not forget that when it comes to forming governments and winning elections, the Sharifs are notorious for rigging elections.

Such has been the formula for success for the Sharifs since quite some time now. The most recent instance being that of the NA-120 by-election, where pre-poll rigging was initiated by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) by registering 30,000 bogus votes.

It is also pertinent to mention that out of all the 40 biometric polling stations (where rigging is not possible), PML-N managed to win only one seat, while the remaining 39 were won by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI).

Therefore, Kulsoom Nawaz’s victory – a bedridden lady not even present in the country, and who holds no merit other than being the wife of Nawaz and the bhabi (sister-in-law) of Shehbaz Sharif – shouldn’t come as a surprise. The fact that she is politically inexperienced and does not hold the same aptitude as her competitor, Dr Yasmin Rashid, becomes redundant. A people’s election never took place. It was more of a sham.

Thus, the reality is that the majority have rejected the Sharifs and their monarch-based politics.

But only a small cadre of PML-N loyalists, driven by their submissive mind-set, continues to support the Sharifs. They fail to see what’s wrong with their leaders, vigorously support them, and cry hoarse about conspiracies as a response to the conviction by the SC.

Since most ideologues associated with the PML-N have either parted ways or gone silent, PML-N now entirely comprises of politicians for hire. They mostly belong to the ‘baradari’ (communal) system, garnering the support of their respective caste or extended family, and sell their share of their constituency support to the highest bidder.

But with the Sharifs’ inevitable political fall, these opportunists will flock towards a stronger party, thus PML-N’s false delusions of power will be shattered.

However, a harrowing reality for all those who want to see this country purged of the Sharif family’s corrupt rule, is the Sharif family’s capability to manipulate the election results again, just like they did in the 2013 elections. Let’s not forget the four constituencies in which Imran Khan had demanded a recounting of votes.

Out of those four, at least three constituencies witnessed their winning candidates lose due to the recounting. It is not difficult to imagine the extent of rigging that may have taken place to make PML-N win in the rest of constituencies as well. If this continues, it would be irrelevant if the people support the Sharifs or not, since they will keep benefitting from a system that allows them to steer the results in their favour every time.

If we sincerely want to get rid of the corrupt political family, we need to rally for free and fair elections and stress upon the higher authorities to ensure that the rules are implemented at all costs.

However, only an independent and bipartisan election commission can make that happen. Unless we take away the Sharifs’ power, they will keep coming back stronger.

Ahsan Zafeer

Ahsan Zafeer

The author is interested in politics, social issues and sports. He has a passion for writing and believes that issues can be resolved through discussion. He tweets @AhsanZafeer (twitter.com/AhsanZafeer)

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