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Imran Khan and Insaaf or Justice

 Najam Sethi in The Friday Times

There is no justice or “insaf” in Pakistan. That is why citizens clutched desperately at the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. There is rampant corruption and voracious greed in Pakistan. That is why citizens lent their shoulder to fashioning the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party. Every political leader in Pakistan is corrupt and incompetent and uncaring. That is why citizens put their hope and faith in Imran Khan, who was educated at Aitchison College in Lahore and Oxford University UK; who is a cricketing hero under whose captainship Pakistan won the World Cup in 1992; whose Shaukat Khanum Hospital is a beacon of light for the wretched and hopeless. Yet, the sound and fury of Imran Khan and the PTI has not signified anything that can remotely signal a serious or even sincere attempt to grapple purposefully with these real issues. The PTI is a one-man party whose leader is mercurial, autocratic, fickle, ill informed, misguided. There is no Insaf or internal democracy in it. There are corrupt lotas in it. The financial misdemeanors of its leaders, including misappropriation and misuse of party funds donated by well-wishers and supporters, cannot be brushed under the carpet. Worse, Khan’s double standards on morality are outrageous.

There is no justice or “insaf” in Pakistan. All hopes were pinned on the Lawyers Movement to restore an independent and qualified judiciary led by CJP Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry to fill this vacuum. Yet, nearly a decade after it was launched and after eight years of stewardship by Mr Chaudhry, that pious hope has all but faded. Mr Chaudhry’s populist suo motu notices and summons made headlines but quickly evaporated thereafter. Many of his judicial appointments politicized the judiciary and made it more controversial and less transparent or competent. In the end, the ex-chief justice has been reduced to squabbling with his benefactor Nawaz Sharif over the mundane spoils of retirement – a bullet proof vehicle, to boot – as he squats rather pathetically over a one man political party with an eminently forgettable name.

It is therefore not surprising that the cry for Insaf or Justice is still ringing loud and true. What is ironic, however, is that it is Imran Khan’s PTI that is knocking on the door of the Supreme Court, after having trashed state institutions like ECP, NAB, FBR, FIA, etc, as “worthless” and “corrupt”. It is Imran Khan’s PTI that first demanded the formation of a SC judicial commission on election rigging, then rubbished its findings when these didn’t suit it, and is now praying before the same SC to investigate the corrupt practices of Nawaz Sharif though the very state institutions like NAB, FBR and FIA that he has earlier denounced.

The SC is clearly in an unenviable position. On the one hand, it is trying to undo some of the consequences of an errant ex-chief justice, some of whose judicial appointees are facing inquiries in the Supreme Judicial Council or whose judgments have been blithely overturned (eg illegal appointments in the Islamabad High Court by an ex-chief justice who has had to resign) etc. On the other hand, it is trying to clean up the arch anti-corruption watchdog NAB that is accused of serious malpractices relating to the discretionary powers of the Chairman NAB (to adjudicate cases involving Plea Bargains or Voluntary Returns of Corruption Monies). This, while it claims to be the leading edge of the investigations demanded by Imran Khan against Nawaz Sharif. The irony is that the very chief justice of Pakistan who rejected Nawaz Sharif’s request six months ago to conduct a corruption inquiry because he felt that the inquiry law was inappropriate for the occasion is now entertaining the same petitions from the same protagonists on the same issues, and there is no discussion yet of the law or Terms Of Reference under which such an inquiry is proposed to be held.

The latest twist in this saga of Insaf-No Insaf again originates from the indefatigable Imran Khan and relates inevitably to the Sharifs. Imran has just accused Shahbaz Sharif of billions in corruption commissions though a front businessman. The self-righteous SS has retaliated by – you guessed it! – suing and bankrupting him in court. Indeed, he insists on fast tracking the court proceedings in order to get Insaf and clear his good name. But here’s the rub. The last recorded libel case that actually came to a conclusion took ten years and ended with a whimper of an apology from the wretched accuser. It is also highly doubtful that there is any judge in the country who will have the courage to deliver Insaf to anyone genuinely wronged by Imran Khan. Such is the populist clout and charisma wielded by the foremost advocate of Insaf against the very precepts of Insaf!

It is all looking rather hopeless. It seems that no state institution or political party or leader is up to the task of provisioning Insaf transparently across the board.

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