STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

We live in interesting times especially if you are a political buff like me. On one hand we see a powerful and popular President being cut to size by state institutions; on the other we see a convicted three times Prime Minister weasel his way out of jail and escape showing a finger to the state. I could not resist the temptation to draw comparisons.

In the US impeachment proceedings are in full swing in the Congress these days. It is riveting. There is a string of witnesses, mostly experienced bureaucrats and diplomats who are taking immense pride in serving their national interests.

The founding fathers in USA deliberated at length all possibilities and eventualities and came up with a constitution that has withstood the tests of time. The preamble starting “We the people…”makes a fascinating read.

The constitution created well defined institutions. It separates legislature, executive and judiciary that regulate each other ensuring neither trespassed or transgressed their authority or functions. President Donald Trump is facing these impeachment proceedings for having broken the law by seeking an inquiry in Ukraine against his potential Democratic rival Joe Biden.

President Trump has played fast and loose in his first term, running the affairs of his presidency like he ran his business empire. His aggressive style of governance, despite opposition, was working quite well for him until now. He was tripped up by a “whistle blower” within the ranks of the US intelligence services highlighting an ill-fated telephone call with the newly elected Ukrainian President.

The inquiry will run its course. The depositions thus far indicate that it is likely to succeed. It will lead to framing the articles of impeachment. The final decision rests with the US Senate which is stacked heavily in favor of Trump’s Republican Party. A stalemate is likely unless the public opinion forces the Senators’ hand like it did for Nixon.

The nation is deeply polarized along party lines. Loyalty to Trump is phenomenal amongst his supporters. He is in a total denial mode carrying his loyalists with him. Despite living on the edge and governing through Twitter, President Trump was getting away with everything. The Mueller inquiry failed to gain much traction; Russian intervention in US elections was there but could not be pinned down. It was a single phone call that upset the apple cart.

There are other examples in history. Al Capone, a mafia don ran amok through indiscriminate criminal acts, including murder, finally he got caught in a tax fraud. A similar thing happened in Pakistan. Three times Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had played havoc with national exchequer looting billions of dollars and laundered them overseas. No one was able to pin him down till the Panama leaks emerged. Through a long drawn inquiry and trial he was finally convicted for financial fraud by Pakistani courts.

He has a committed following like Trump, but this is where the similarity ends. The dividing line between US and Pakistan is quite clear. In US the institutions are stronger than individuals. In Pakistan the individuals are stronger than the state.

The recent Sharif drama that unfolded in Pakistan has proved this proposition beyond doubt. It has left the nation dumb founded. In my last post I had predicted that Courts are likely to reject the Government’s demand for a bond given their “relief” mode. So it happened. The subsequent acts of Sharif since he was released, clearly show it was a huge big ruse, and a deception.

For someone who is terminally ill with a disease that no doctor in Pakistan could treat, he was able to enjoy the luxury of a private plane sitting on its cushy seats rather than the patient’s bed! He went straight to his luxury apartments upon landing, rather than being rushed to a hospital!

Who is responsible for this “Great Escape”? Facts will eventually emerge, for now all kinds of theories are floating around. But there is huge downside to this event. It has openly pitched two pillars of the state on opposite sides; the Judiciary and the Executive. It is tragic. For the first time in Pakistan’s 70 plus years of existence all the institutions were pulling in the same direction. They sought to bring about change and reform in this much abused and brutalized nation. This nascent,yet wonderful, association is under threat. I urge all involved with utmost humility; please don’t extinguish the small flame of hope that finally had started to shed some light for this nations’ future.

We all love Pakistan. Sharif’s rule and presence were a 30 year long nightmare. It may not have ended the way it should have, but we are definitely better off with him gone. I hope Prime Minister Imran Khan does not lose his focus, he should continue his struggle to bring change to Pakistan and the Honorable Chief Justice keeps going down the wonderful path of model courts that will bring speedy justice to our deprived people.

Making institutions stronger than individuals is a long journey that is covered one step at a time.Supremacy of law requires patient nation building.

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