Pakistan PM Imran Khan is on his first official visit to the US at the invitation of President Donald Trump. However, on the eve of his Washington ‘yatra’, Imran declared open season on accountability of notoriously famous Pakistani political rogues and robber-barons. On cue from him, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has declared war on all those tainted ‘luminaries’ known to have looted the country and stashed their booty abroad.
NAB’s latest ‘big catch’ is Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a Nawaz Sharif crony who succeeded him as prime minister when Nawaz was disqualified by the apex court in November 2017, from holding any public office because of corruption.Abbasi has been remanded to police custody for further questioning. He’s accused of having made billions in an LNG deal with Qatar, which he negotiated as Nawaz’s petroleum and gas minister. Pakistan will continue to be burdened with that prohibitively expensive deal for years to come. But Abbasi is said to have collected cool billions in kickbacks.
Abbasi joins the ranks of Nawaz and the notorious Zardari already behind the bars. Imran’s pilgrimage
to Washington is interestingly taking place in this weird backdrop. This dubious ‘distinction’ may easily qualify Pakistan for a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.Imran hasn’t let up, at all, in what’s to him a ‘crusade’ to rid Pakistan of its festering cancer of corruption. Time and again since coming to power, he has reiterated his resolve to not relent until he has held the rogues accountable and recovered from them all that has been plundered from Pakistan.
But those under assault seem equally determined on their part to resist Imran’s onslaught at their citadels. The backlash from them—or, in the absence of head honchos from the scene, from their surrogates and successors—is on the swing with all the intensity at their command. They’re apparently discounting nothing, fair or foul, from deploying in their campaign to prove their, or their hero’s ‘innocence.’
A concerted offensive has come from Nawaz Sharif’s politically proactive daughter, Maryam frantically aspiring to inherit her disgraced father’s mantle.Earlier in July, Maryam released to a stunned media in Islamabad, a short video of the Accountability judge Arashad Malik who had sent her father to prison for seven years for corruption. The video showed Malik purportedly confessing to an acolyte of Nawaz that he had been ‘pressured’ to sentence the former PM, without saying who pressured him.
The video took Pakistan by storm. It not only put an instant question mark over Nawaz’s trial and sentence, but also precipitated a fog of suspicion over the entire justice system holding the rogue politicians—all of whom happened to be in opposition to the incumbent government—accountable.
In a riposte, Judge Malik swiftly filed an affidavit before the Islamabad High Court challenging the veracity of what he described as a ‘doctored’ video. He contended that the video was an exercise in defaming him and the judicial process of accountability from shady partisans of the guilty PM after they had failed in their earlier bid to bribe and blackmail him.Interestingly, Malik was an appointee of Nawaz government to the Accountability court. So, it isn’t far-fetched that Nawaz and cohorts expected their ‘man’ to exonerate the former PM from all charges of corruption.
According to Malik’s affidavit, while Nawaz was under trial, his henchmen approached him with a cash bribe of Rupees 100 million in return for a ‘not-guilty’ verdict favouring Nawaz. However, when Malik declined the offer, he was warned of ‘dire consequences.’ The affidavit contends that a ‘hardened criminal’ acolyte of Nawaz—known to have committed several murders—warned him, point blank, that he was prepared to go to ‘any lengths’ on behalf of his ‘mentor’ Nawaz.
Judge Malik, wasn’t intimidated. He found Nawaz guilty and, subsequently, went to Saudi Arabia for ‘Umrah’(minor pilgrimage). Over there, in Medina—where the Prophet Muhammad is buried—he was met by Nawaz’s son, Hussain, a proclaimed offender under Pakistan’s law who is living in London. Hussain, reportedly raised the bribe offer to Malik to Rupees 500 million if he declares he had been pressured to sentence Nawaz and resign from his office.
The Islamabad HC, tasked with reviewing Judge Malik’s petition, has, however, relieved him of his office and is going through the entire sordid episode to sift the truth from a web of allegations and counter-allegations.
It may be sometime before the court succeeds in its arduous undertaking and the saga reaches its logical conclusion. The cloak-and-dagger tale, nevertheless, puts a cloud over Pakistan’s judicial system. But one conclusion is clear: Pakistan’s tainted politicians aren’t above the mafia tactics to prove their point.
The incumbent chief justice of the apex court—who was on the bench that removed Nawaz—had likened him to a mafia godfather and said his party was like a Sicilian mafia. How right he was. The Sicilians could learn a lesson or two from their Pakistani partisans.