ISLAMABAD: Adjudicated under Article 184-3 of the Constitution, the apex court decision on Panama Papers case leaves limited legal remedies for Nawaz Sharif, the ousted prime minister, and his family members, expect for filing a review petition.
Disqualified as a member of parliament, Sharif can no longer formally head the PML-N as Section V of the Political Parties Order, 2002 bars a person – who is not qualified to be a lawmaker – from becoming office-bearer of any political party.
The ruling party is in the process of choosing Sharif’s successor as leader of the house. It would also have to elect a new president for the party in the coming days. However, it is clear that the party would complete its full five-year term ending on June 4, next year before entering the race for the next general elections.
The ruling party plans to intensify its battle against political opponents and powerful institutions of the country. The PML-N believes the ground on which Nawaz Sharif is disqualified is not cogent enough to oust an elected prime minister.
Once the precedent has been set, the same ground of non-declaration in nomination forms can easily be used against other top politicians. The PTI chief Imran Khan is already facing similar charges in a pending case. Many other known politicians can be implicated on these charges.
This also means the PML-N would passionately pursue pending cases and may file more such petitions against their political opponents in the coming days.
Failure of political forces
Instead of strengthening the appropriate forums, the politicians have been relaying on other institutions to deal with political matters. Analysts believe that parliament over the years has been conveniently conceding its supremacy in favour of other institutions.
Soon after Panama Papers case came to the limelight, it was an excellent opportunity for the political parties to come up with some credible accountability mechanism acceptable to all. They had been critical of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) but failed to replace it with an independent anti-graft watchdog.
Political leaders have been castigating the ambiguous provisions of Sadiq and Ameen added to Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution during military regime of General Ziaul Haq but have never made a serious attempt to rectify them.
The same goes for powers of the apex court under Article 184-3. There is no provision to file appeal against it. The government initiated process to amend the provision a few months ago when the Panama Papers case had already landed in Supreme Court but had to shelve the plan after finding that most opposition parties were averse to the move because of its timing.
The draft bill, if passed, would have inculcated a provision to file an appeal against decisions taken in suo motu cases. Such an appeal could have been heard by a bench comprising judges other than the ones who gave the decision. Had the bill been passed on time, the aggrieved PML-N could have had one more forum for remedy.
At the start of the Panamagate controversy, when the apex court rejected government’s application to investigate into the matter under ‘toothless’ Commission Of Inquiry Act, 1956, the government and opposition had entered into parlays to devise a workable mechanism for investigations.
After several rounds of talks, they failed to agree on terms of reference (ToRs) of the proposed probe commission. The government wanted an open-ended inquiry which would have potentially opened thousands of cases – many of them with no connection whatsoever with the Panama Leaks.
This would have started a never-ending exercise putting the real issue on the back burner. Due to its inflexible attitude, the government lost opportunity to resolve the controversy and ultimately the apex court had to intervene into the matter due to precarious political situation.