Aleema Khanum walks away with a fine while Maryam Nawaz was sent to jail – double standards of justice?

Published: December 14, 2018
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The decision to only charge Khanum with a fine seriously dents the credibility of our institutions.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s sister Aleema Khanum has been fined for not disclosing her property in the UAE, with the Supreme Court (SC) ordering her to submit Rs29.4 million as a fine. However, she was not asked to disclose her source of income and neither was a joint investigation team (JIT) ordered to probe her source of income or for the authenticity of the money trail she presented in court. No reference of assets beyond known means was filed against her in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) either.

On the other hand, on the same day, the SC ordered a JIT against former premier Nawaz Sharif for allegedly allotting an Auqaf land in the Pakpattan district back in 1986, when he was the chief minister of Punjab. Moving beyond Nawaz, Maryam Nawaz was also asked to prove her innocence in front of a JIT in connection to the Mayfair apartments. Similarly, Saad Rafique and Shehbaz Sharif are both facing prison sentences for ‘misusing’ their authority and for their alleged involvement in corrupt practices.

However, Khanum’s case is an exception. She came to court, offered a simple explanation – saying she bought the property in Dubai with half of her own capital and half taken from a mortgage loan – and her justification was accepted without any inquiry being deemed necessary.

This begs the question: is there a double standard of justice and accountability prevalent in the country? After all, if a former prime minister, his brother, daughter and other party members can face inquiries pertaining to assets beyond their means that they failed to reveal, then we have to wonder why Khanum should not be subjected to the same process. After all, if she proves her innocence in front of a JIT, she can easily get a clean chit and would set the perfect example of how in Naya Pakistan accountability truly is across the board, and not just another drive meant to dent parties of the opposition.

Khanum had already confessed she did not disclose her property, a luxurious flat located in one of the most expensive areas adjacent to the Burj Khalifa, to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). FBR’s own report described Khanum to be uncooperative and unresponsive to the notices issued against her. And yet she has been let go easy, with the fine being the only punishment she receives despite having undeclared assets. If Khanum is allowed to walk free, why are the rules different for everyone else in the game? Why was Maryam imprisoned for seven years instead of paying a fine?

Thus, the decision to only charge Khanum with a fine seriously dents the credibility of our institutions and only strengthens the narrative of the opposition and of critics who claim the accountability onslaught is meant to weaken other political parties.

There remains another angle at play in Khanum’s case. Khanum is the sister of the same man who repeatedly talks about corruption being the plague ruining Pakistan and who promises to imprison all those who have looted the country and possess undisclosed assets in foreign countries, and this fact makes this a case of beautiful irony to say the least. We have already seen that Imran is not interested in any kind of neutral and impartial accountability; he is simply using the slogan of corruption to somehow distract his support base and critics from the dismal performance of his government.

Admittedly, Imran has not stopped talking about the moral high ground and ethics for the past five years, then why is he silent now? To date, Imran has not commented on the undisclosed property of his sister, but he continues to threaten to put behind bars everyone involved in a practice she has been found guilty of. Perhaps by accountability Imran only means holding accountable those who are his critics or his political opponents? For he has allowed Jahangir Tareen to run party affairs and the province of Punjab, despite Tareen being disqualified by the SC for the same reason Nawaz was. And then there is the fact that the likes of Aleem Khan and Zulfi Bukhari are still enjoying the portfolios of ministers, despite being under investigation by the NAB.

Why does he not prove critics wrong by asking courts to probe Khanum’s case the way he did for the Sharifs, Asif Ali Zardari, and for the rest of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)? Staying silent suggests he is only using the slogan of accountability to victimise his opponents. As far as accountability and corruption are concerned, we have been seeing this since the era of Ayub Khan, and to date no major political leader has been proven guilty of corruption in the court of law. Imran may talk the talk, but he has repeatedly made it clear with his behaviour that he is not interested in walking the talk. There is no other rational justification for why the law is treating individuals with the same cases with such vast double standards. Khanum’s case is then a reminder that Pakistan is not yet ready to learn from the mistakes of the past, and political dissidence continues to be punished in this ‘democracy’.

Martin Luther King once said,

“Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere”.

In Pakistan, justice seems to be dispensed on the basis of personal likes and dislikes, which is why two people end up paying differently for the same crime. This is not a good indication for our future. The opposition has accused Khanum of building her assets through her brother’s money and influence after her name came out in the Dubai leaks. A similar instance happened after the Panama Papers, where Nawaz was not nominated directly, but he was suspected of accumulating wealth under his children’s name and was disqualified and imprisoned for not satisfying NAB with the proof he presented. According to the precedent set by the courts and NAB recently, Khanum too needs to be probed thoroughly by a JIT. If one can be ordered for people like Nawaz and Zardari, then why not for Khanum?

No individual or institution in Pakistan seems ready to hold themselves accountable, and yet everyone vows to hold dissidents and political rivals accountable. It seems as if we are moving in circles, as ‘accountability’ has become a buzzword to keep the masses hostage to the rotten and manipulative political and social order. The only way forward is the formation of a truth and reconciliation commission where each and every politician and institution should be held accountable; otherwise we’ll never emerge out of this circle.

Accountability begins at home, and Imran conceding the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee to Shehbaz is a step in the right direction. But the decision on Khanum’s case is another step back, and the government must take steps forward to prove that the prime minister’s sister will not be spared for her crime either.

Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar

The writer is a columnist and writes for various English and Urdu publications. He tweets at @rjimad (twitter.com/rjimad)

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

  • Rehan Javed

    I’ll put it in simple words so everyone can understand; You can’t compare Apples with Oranges.

    Firstly; Maryam was daughter of premier and properties under discussion were bought at time of his premier ship. Also; There were allegations of forgery in documents.

    In this case, and in normal proceedings, We are generally only required to pay fine as it can be caused by negligence. Also; please note that Imran has just came into power and this property was purchased when he was not even an MNA. Moreover; his Sister is a working woman and have ventures outside Shukat khanam as well.

    Please stop creating controversies , Call spade a spade.Recommend

  • Aamir

    Simple question: What public office does Aleema Khan hold? or ever held?
    She’s not a politician Maryam is associated with politics. This and only this difference is more than sufficient to answer ur question.
    If one is a politician and holds an asset, he/she is always in a doubt. it’s he/she who is required to prove him truthful and trustworthy, prove his resources not the other way around.Recommend

  • nihal

    kindly read proper maryam case then write blogRecommend

  • syed baqar ahsan

    khanum has a solid history where as Marium has a looted money.Recommend

  • Ailly Ali

    Wow… hats offRecommend

  • Adnan Tariq

    Biased article.. The 2 cases are not comparableRecommend

  • Adeel Ahmad

    Mariyam was not mpa or mna saeenRecommend

  • goggi (Lahore)

    The grave of Prime Minister´s beloved mother in Mian Mir Sahib graveyard has been demolished as part of anti-encroachment drive!!! Did the PM, his sisters or his diehard supporters try to prevent this heartbreaking incident?Recommend

  • Fazal Hussain

    Khan is not holding any govt job where Nawaz Sharif was chief minister. People who hold govt job should be thoroughly invested on their dis-honesty.Recommend

  • M. I. Minhas

    Its not double standard. Being a writer at least u should know a big difference. Who himself or his family were holding public offices and who was not holding even any job in pakistan. Money and money trail is being questioned from those who had a chance of looting the country. I m wondering why khanum is fined. Yes everyone should pay taxes as per law but from hard earned and legal money one can utilize it anywhere and everywhere it should even be questioned coz then this will cause negative impacts. Yes everone shud pay taxes and questioned those who held public offices or Govt. Offices.Recommend

  • Sheraz Khalid

    Then why did she used to meet to foreign delegates in PM house? And used to influence government decisions.Recommend

  • Aamir

    What this nation has become. So sad.. This nation can not see the difference between maryam and aleemaRecommend

  • Ahmad

    Maryam claimed to be Nawaz’s dependent. Aleema Khan never claimed to be Imran;s dependent, hence Maryam’s money is Nawaz’s money where as Aleema’s money is her own. She provided the MONEY Trail that Maryam failed to do so. Also do not forget the FORGERY (Calibiri font)Recommend

  • Sajjad hussain

    Ok, you mean corruption is allowed to people who have power and collect money on the garb of philentothrapy, or public celibrity so on and so forth.Recommend

  • Mohammed

    One looted (with her father and brothers) Pakistan’s money and other used her own money. That’s the difference my brother, when you write tell the truth,Recommend

  • Hasan

    Aleema presented her money trail, declared ownership of assets and paid the fine.

    Maryam did none of the above.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Her abbu put her in charge of the Youth Entrepreneur Loan Scheme. [billions of rupees, no oversight] Her degrees were questionable. No banking experience. Lahore high Court had to step in to remove her.
    Michelle Obama’s NGO gave money for Girls Education and Empowerment, in Pakistan,…Maryam in charge of it. $60 million.
    No accountability to date so far, how money was spent. In each province. Plus Gilgit-Baltistan. No idea where money is now.
    In charge of abbus’s PM Media cell. 60 strong! Operating out of PM House, Isloo……Govt. already has an Info Minister!! Where did money come from to pay for this private PM’ Public Relation Cell????Recommend

  • Patwari

    But he became PM only 3 months ago!! Not thrice removed, yet!!
    Take a look at yourself in the mirror, please!!Recommend

  • Nas Khan

    maryam is associated with politics the same way aleema is..you haven’t heard or seen her active in politics???Recommend

  • Nas Khan

    lets take imran and nawaz out of the equation and judge both of these individuals on their own merits.a judge’s job is to look at each as an individual not who they are related to. that’s nepotism in reverse.discretionary justice is not justice.Recommend

  • Humza

    Yes it is sad that this nation does not understand that the selective application of harsh justice against one party and its supporters is no justice at all. When Imran Khan was allowed to regularize his Bani Gali residence which was illegally built, no one seemed to care. If he were from another party, he would not only seen his Bani Gali estate taken away but demolished like the encroachments in Karachi’s market. Also he would be asked how he and his wife got the money to buy the Bani Gali property since there are reports in UK about the Goldsmith’s shady business deals. There is proof that Imran Khan had off shore accounts to hide his money in UK. When Aleema Khan can hold the courts in contempt by ignoring their requests, it shows that the courts are afraid of the current PM since she was let off so easily. I suppose we will have to wait for the tables to turn and for another government to come in before Imran Khan’s sister and his family along with the current cabal of politicians like Shaikh Rasheed are also served the justice they deserve by not only fines but jail terms.Recommend

  • Humza

    Yes call a spade a spade. Maryam Nawaz was the daughter of the PM just like Aleema Khan is the sister of the current PM. So yes, we should all hear about where she got her money. If she can’t prove where it comes from, it should be assumed it is stolen and she should be charged. This is the standard applied to others since nothing was proven against Nawaz Sharif and his family who have been businessmen for decades and own flats in London like business all over the world own. As for the rumours about money being stolen from donations given to Shaukat Khanum Hospital and about foreign funding provided to PTI to stop CPEC, these allegations need the formation of a special JIT to investigate.Recommend

  • Humza

    Aleema Khanum and family have a solid history of looting and should be charged. A Investigation Committee will prove this and should be formed to expose the looting and cheating of her family now that she is sister of the sitting PM.Recommend

  • Kevin Sean

    Well said but you are wasting your time. These bozos are never going to stop making excuses for this team of thieves and plunderers ruling our country. They wanted PTI and now that PTI is in power every wrong doing is legitimized because some new faces are trying them.Recommend

  • Zafar

    PTI and PM Khan have lost all credibility with their lies, double standards and hypocrisy. Now only a fool twice over would trust them.Recommend

  • Fahad Yousuf

    Perfect writing. They are facing consequences on their own :D Opposition has not yet started pressing them, they are digging their own graves. Yes, all these happenings of last 1-1.5 year proved us wrong that “Nawaz Sharif agar khata hai to lagata hai” to “Nawaz Sharif khata nahi sirf lagata hai”.

    As result, from Laptops, Motorways and CPECs we are now heading towards chickens and buffaloes. I don’t think we have ever reverse-geared so fast in our historyRecommend

  • Kulsoom

    She was caught, her money trail was called out by Ex PM Nawaz. NAB then tracked it. She did not declare it till she was caught red handed with the loot. A thief, crook, and embezzler when caught must be booked and punished.

    That a thief’s theft of public funds was caught does not absolve the thief of the crime. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s sister Aleema Khanum would go to prison for a long long time if there was equitable justice in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Kulsoom

    I did not know about this horrific act. Extremely saddened to hear of this monstrous act of PM Imran Khan. It demonstrates that we indeed have placed amonster in the prime minister’s chair. Mark my words, the inhumanity of these people is building up. Karma will sort them out in similar manner in the end.Recommend

  • Afzaal Khan.M

    Aleema was never involved in any dubious deals to plunder the country or in corruption.
    makes a difference .Recommend

  • muzaffaralisyed

    dude are you serious ?Recommend

  • muzaffaralisyed

    Brother merit was aleema khan presenting the money trail while maryam doesn’t even know how she got the flats becoz of papa the great. They could not justify their wealth, if they could they would have been fined only for concealment of asset just like Aleema. And Maryam got additional one year jail term for forgery. Yes if Aleema was an MPA, MNA or senator she would have been disqualified as well for lying.Recommend