A test case for Pakistani politics
Mian Saifur Rehman
As Opposition and certain segments of public opinion are building up momentum, relying upon the Panama Leaks’ chapter relevant to Pakistani politics, it has of course become a test case for Pakistani politics more so for the incumbent Nawaz Sharif government.
The latter is, however, making use of all democratic options to dilute the anti-Nawaz momentum like contemplating Track II discussions with some Opposition parties, starting from the ‘soft; Opposition leaders through people who have their presence in both the camps.
Now the situation has evolved in such a manner that the onus of responsibility to resolve the issue overwhelmingly lies on the Prime Minister and time is the key factor to the outcome of the current political imbroglio — the longer it persists, more intense it becomes. It would be best for the PML-N government to contain its tempo and find a way out soon.
The overall opinion formed during discussions at different thinking forums is that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, should have contented himself with the fact that his name was not directly mentioned in the Panama documents and, as such he should not have gone for the option of addressing the nation.
According to these circles, the PM’s addresses to the nation explaining his own position followed by PML-N top leaders jumping into the fray, has further complicated the controversy.
Instead, the things should have been handled with extra caution and sagacity since political solutions are not to be tackled with aggressive reactions and responses. And now the PML-N has adopted an altogether different route as the previous aggression has been replaced with the PML-N’s flippant attitude towards the Opposition as if the PML-N leadership were of the opinion that the impact of the Panama Leaks will fade away.
The ground realities are, however, going the other way round as the impact of Panama Leaks is not fading away especially over the repeated disclosures. And though it doesn’t mean that this impact is specifically anti-Nawaz, the government being the main vehicle of state power just can’t absolve itself of the basic responsibility of dealing with an imbroglio-like situation.
Moreover, the current situation is different from what it was when the PTI launched its 2014 sit-in. The PM should realize the ground realities as they prevail now. If vast majority of political parties and religious groups decide to work together to challenge the PML-N, the latter will have to come across greater difficulties.
One way to dilute the situation is taking into consideration the Opposition's current stance towards the form and function of the proposed inquiry commission and its ToRs as well as Opposition’s stand that there are some inherent shortcomings in the Act VI of 1956 which, according to Opposition leaders in general and renowned lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan in particular, doesn’t adequately empower an inquiry commission to thoroughly probe and conclusively determine any complex question or an issue like Panama Leaks probe.
In these circumstances, the government can weigh the option (or suggestion) of forming an inquiry commission on the lines of the framework of General Elections-2013 Inquiry Commission Ordinance 2015 after finalizing its ToRs in consultation with the Opposition.
The thinking forums are also of the opinion that the government has to watch against the perception that has been built up recently that there is growing strain in civil-military relations against the backdrop of perceived anti-military propaganda suspected to be floated by the federal government echelons.
Actually certain people within the federal government had misread the army chief’s statement calling for an end to corruption as pressure tactics against the government and hence this perception or misperception.
In this entire scenario, the government’s obligations stand multiplied as it has to look after many fronts including the most crucial front of Madrassah reforms and societal mobilization for countering extremism and terrorism which may be put on the back-burner if PML-N opts not to isolate itself from strong and influential religious segments at this moment because of its fight for survival.