News Politics South Asia 

Pakistan: A State in Turmoil

by Nazir Tabassum
Pakistan celebrated its 70th birthday in mid-August. The celebrations took place in circumstances that did not augur well for this Islamic republic in the coming days. The country is infested very deeply with corruption, malfunction of its various organs, poor governance, extremism and terrorism, foreign interference in its internal affairs because of its ill-defined foreign policy.

A political party known after the name of its head, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and nothing to do with the party of the founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Muslim League, has been in power a third time and currently for the last more than four years. Mian Nawaz Sharif, leader of the PML- N, has the fame of being a steel magnate. His corporate interests always remain in conflict with the other stake holders in the country. He thinks and acts in terms of increasing his family assets.

He is against the country’s ongoing Afghan policy and wishes to establish cordial trade relations with India, something that is against the thinking of the country’s powerful establishment. His chief interest lies in mega-projects like motorways, oblivious of the dire needs of the population of the country. During his current term, the population remain simmering in hot summers and shivered in cold winters because of acute short fall in generating electricity. But he kept harping on the tune that there would be zero load-shedding of electricity in 2018. But alas! He did not remain in power till that time.

The current drop scene had its beginning about a year ago when the political controversy erupted in the country over the corruption allegations unleashed by the 2016 Panama Papers leak. The controversy continued a yearlong in the streets, in the sit-down protests and in the parliament. It ultimately came to an end when a five-member Supreme Court removed Mr Nawaz Sharif from the office of the Prime Minister in a unanimous verdict over corruption charges. This verdict is sure to upset the already unstable landscape of the country.

The court’s decision is seen as throwing the ruling party as well as the country at large into a turmoil ahead of general elections that are due next year. This is the third time that Mr Sharif’s term time has been cut short who has been a leading figure in the politics of Pakistan for no less than thirty years. His first term in 1990 was cut short in 1993.

It is being said that had he resigned from the office in the very beginning as some other heads of the governments of certain countries did when their financial dealings were detailed by Mossack Fonseca, a law firm of Panama, he might have been saved from so much humiliation and disqualification for a decade. According to the leaked Panama Papers that were published worldwide, Mr Sharif’s children raised £7million in loans against four flats in Park Lane, London owned by offshore companies. Though Nawaz Sharif remained in a state of denial throughout, while his son said the family never tried to conceal their assets.

It was pointed out in the Panama Papers that Mr Sharif’s children purchased London property through offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands in early 1990s. This was the time when his children were just minors and it is assumed that the purchase was made by Mr Sharif.

Furthermore, Mr Nawaz Sharif was discovered having Iqama (permit of residence) of Dubai. That also brought to light an umbrella company of the name FZ having a number of subordinate companies, mostly used for money laundering. Iqama of Dubai is used as a cover residence because if you keep your illegally achieved wealth in any western bank including the Swiss banks, then these banks would disclose the details of the account holder to the country of their residence and to the country of their citizenship. Iqama is thus a means of hiding the ill-gotten wealth successfully.

Now when Nawaz Sharif is out of power, his constituency seat is vacated and bye elections are going to be held in his constituency. He couldn’t trust anyone except his wife, who left the country after filing her nomination papers and came to London for the treatment of her alleged throat cancer.

The Supreme Court’s decision is an outstanding victory for Imran Khan and his Terek-e-Insaaf party, be it even for a short term. They have fielded their candidate, Dr Rashida to contest bye election against Mrs Kulsoom Nawaz. It is said that Mrs Kulsoom Nawaz may win on account of sympathy vote. However, Imran Khan has been all this while running a ceaseless campaign against Nawaz Sharif’s expulsion and to that end he has succeeded.

Nawaz Sharif’s current downfall can be clearly attributed to the former cricket star who reinvented himself nearly 20 years ago as pious political campaigner against corruption. During most of these years he engaged himself in exposing Pakistani rulers the way they plunder the country’s wealth and spend it abroad in casinos. Imran Khan says: “When I was living in England I saw how those ministers lived – spending £100,000 in casinos, living in palaces [when Pakistan] doesn’t have basic facilities. That’s why I called my party Movement for Justice”.

Whenever Imran Khan comes to London to see his sons, he stays at Ormeley Lodge, a mansion on the edge of Richmond Park in South-west London, which is home of Lady Annabel Goldsmith, his former mother-in-law. Though it is more than ten years since he divorced Jemima, yet a photograph of Imran laughing with his former wife and a son still hangs in the library. Imran supported his former brother-in-law Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative MP against Sadiq Khan in London’s mayoral election. Zac himself was a beneficiary of offshore trust that was set up by his father. Yet he ran a divisive campaign against Sadiq Khan who is a former human rights lawyer. Zac dubbed him a “radical” and accused of “providing cover for extremists”.

Pakistan is recently faced by another bolt out of blue from American President Donald Trump who asked Pakistan to eliminate militant sanctuaries otherwise get ready for the American backlash. Mr Trump said: “It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace after benefitting from billions in US counterterrorism funds since September 11, 2001 attacks”. It was left to the Army Chief to issue a rejoinder to Mr Trump’s statement because the Civilian administrative setup is still in disarray after the exit of Mr Nawaz Sharif. What is in the store house of Fate for Pakistan in coming times is yet to be seen.

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