Last week, the honourable Islamabad High Court (IHC), through an order that was celebrated by a hapless people, across every street and town of Pakistan, acquitted the even more honourable Mr. Nawaz Sharif, by declaring that his “inculpability” in the Avenfield Reference, emanated from the fact that the prosecuting agency (the honourable NAB, of course), “has not been able to prove its case as their [sic] does not exist any document to establish guilt” of Nawaz Sharif. Pause. Reread. There does not “exist any document”, whatsoever, even after years of State funded investigation, to establish that Nawaz Sharif had any connection with Avenfield Apartments – the one he has been living in all these years; from where he flew to come save us all; where his children continue to live till date; and where he will probably go back to, if this experiment does not work out. No evidence. At all.
Blink. It is 2021. It is the same Islamabad High Court. Ironically, the day is about the same ‘honorables’ within the IHC. Walking in from the gate is Justice (R) Rana Shamim, a former Chief Judge of the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan, who had submitted an affidavit that he had witnessed a former Chief Justice of Pakistan “continuously talking on the phone to his registrar, directing him to go to the residence of Justice Mian Amer Farooq, judge of the Islamabad High Court”, allegedly to “convey” to him that “Mian M. Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz shall not be released on bail before the General elections at any cost.” To put it plainly, the former Chief Judge had alleged that former CJ Saqib Nisar had influenced Justice Amer Farooq, to (unlawfully) incarcerate Sharif family members, leading up to the 2018 elections. And so it was done. The fact that the former Chief Judge subsequently retracted this affidavit is less pertinent – since then, this spirit of retracting from submissions made on oath has been extended to NAB, along with other relevant institutions of the State machinery. However, at the time, so deep was the guilt of Nawaz Sharif, that any suggestion of its impropriety, was tantamount to challenging the very credibility of our judicial system, and the process of accountability.
Blink. It is 2019. Some weeks back, Maryam Nawaz had sat in front of a large screen, flanked by coterie of the King, and shown irrefutable video evidence of a compromised (late) Judge Arshad Malik, committing a travesty of justice against the (immaculate) Sharif family. This video showed the late Judge claiming that he had decided the case against Nawaz Sharif under coercion and pressure from ‘certain individuals’. This video screening by Maryam Nawaz, and the boorish nature of the spectacle, was taken as an offence by not just the accused, but more so by the honorable Court, and (as before) by the even more honorable NAB. The prosecuting agency mounted a fierce defence, vociferously arguing that the ‘irrefutable’ evidence against Nawaz Sharif – collected over a course of many months, through unprecedented collaboration of investigative and intelligence agencies, with constant monitoring of the most honorable Supreme Court – was irreproachable and could not be discarded at the mere statement by the Judge. In defence of this contention, as is customary in our land, Judge Arshad submitted an affidavit, signed on oath (as a sitting Judge), that he had been offered a bribe by Hussain Nawaz, and opposes the allegations made against him by PML(N). The matter culminated before the (most) honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan, which decided that “the process of trial and the evidence recorded during the trial were not affected by the conduct of the learned Judge”, which (having been collected under the nose of the honorable Supreme Court) can be evaluated by the IHC to decide the matter accordingly. Because, the corpus of evidence itself, in full view of media and international investigative journalists, was untainted, and could not be ignored even if the judicial process had been compromised.
Blink. It is 2017. At the heels of the Panama Papers, and investigative reporting by credible international institutions (including, e.g., the BBC), the people of Pakistan have discovered the least well-kept secret in our political history: that the Sharif family owned ‘popperties’ in London, through offshore evasive legal arrangements. This has triggered an investigation into a question that is an anathema in Pakistani politics: does the Sharif/Zardari family own assets beyond their known sources of income? Connectedly, has our political elite laundered money out of Pakistan’s sinking economy, to build their empires of greed, beyond the territorial reach of our Constitution and the law? Rallied by an ‘activist’ Court, unprecedented Joint Investigation Teams were formed, garnering members from the intelligence communities, in order to peep behind the myriad of legal arrangements and undocumented transactions, to forever conclusively answer the evasive question of corruption in the highest echelons of political power. In an exercise that lasted more many months, investigators from NAB, in collaboration with other State agencies, in full view of public media and the honorable Supreme Court, produced truckloads of documentation and convinced a politically inert nation that the rot of our national fabric emanated from a selfish cancer in our political elite – crystalized in Nawaz Sharif’s Avenfield case. The many boxes of documents, collected by our most credible State agencies, against the Sharif family, contained such debilitating proof of treasonous betrayal, that disclosure of ‘Box # 10’ would undermine the very national security of our great nation. And based on such irrefutable evidence, the National Accountability Bureau was directed to initiate prosecutions in accordance with law.
Blink. Back to here and now. And last week, the (same) very honorable NAB, stood before the (same) even more honorable IHC, to submit that this premier prosecuting agency had no evidence, whatsoever, to establish ‘any legal connection’, between Nawaz Sharif and the house that he has lived in for the past three years.That, in effect, the boxes of documents and mountains of evidence had somehow dissipated in the thick fog of our polity. That the people who collected such evidence have since been dethroned. And that the new political emperor, having arrived in Pakistan from Avenfied Apartments, now donned the invisible garment of inculpability. And that all those who cannot see this invisible cloak, or do not believe it, or whisper doubts in its path, are not just enemies of justice – they are enemies of our Constitution, they are enemies of democracy, and by extension they are enemies of the State.
Blink. As impossible as it seemed in 2023, we are before the Final Court of Eternal Justice. A Court that does not judge by the standards of our tainted law, or through the force of a compromised prosecutorial system. A Court where the complainant is not some institutional interest or political motivation, but instead the hapless people, of a robbed nation, in a sinking time. There, before a Court of mercy and magnificence. Where fleeting moments of insignificant political considerations will not come to the aid of the rich and the powerful. Where a nation robbed of its resources and wealth, generations robbed of opportunity and promise, and a people robbed of dignity and deliverance, will have their vengeance against our project of justice. So ordered.