The contradictions and flaws being pointed out in the JIT report are so serious, that they should face not just a tough challenge in court, but in a fair court of law become a noose around the necks of the writers of the report. Hence it is ludicrous to demand resignation of an elected Prime Minister on the basis of such a report that is a compilation of accusatory conclusions based on ifs, buts, possibilities, probabilities, suspicions, suppositions, imagination, misgivings, and unexplained opinions. All those ‘analysts’ or others giving pious and holier than thou ‘advice’ to the Prime Minister to resign on ‘moral’ grounds, should keep their counsel and not waste their time. Leaving the political reasons aside for a moment, it is hard to understand what moral values or ideals dictate anyone to resign because they are simply accused of wrong doing. And as far as accusations are concerned, the Prime Minister has been accused of one crime or another from the day he was elected. Going by the current chorus, he should have gone home before setting foot in PM House. And given the Pakistani political culture of constant and untruthful hurling of accusations on opponents, no one would ever be allowed to stay in government, or any office, if accusations were made the basis of resignations. And people should make themselves clear on this point: the JIT report is a pile of accusations – similar to a prosecutor’s case in a court of law. The prosecutor’s case is not a final finding, every piece of evidence and witness of the case is subjected to scrutiny and cross examination before a final verdict is given. And the farce is that almost every Tom, Dick and Harry making the moral argument is not ‘clean’ either, with either known or strongly suspected cases of corruption, patronage of one form or another, graft, and under the table deals etc.
Moving on from the fallacious ‘moral’ argument, there are strong political ones which make the advice to resign unwise at best. It would be akin to political suicide to resign as it would send all the wrong signals to the PML-N voters. Resignation at this juncture will not only look like an admission of guilt, but also a sign of weakness. To look guilty and weak in the midst of a conspiracy is the exact opposite of what a politician should be doing. He should look confident, clear and strong as that is what voters are looking for.
Many a politician like respectable leader of opposition Khurshid Shah argue that the man should go to save the system. The common refrain is this: your government is in majority, nominate someone else to PMship, fight your case and clear your name and return to your position when cleared. In the meantime the government will remain in your party’s hands and the democratic system will be saved from being upended or interrupted.
Two questions. First, why should democracy get up-ended if the premier doesn’t resign? Because the conspirators will once again attempt to destabilise the country so much that democracy would get derailed? Shouldn’t that tell the leader of the opposition that something must be done to foil the conspiracy instead of sending the elected Prime Minister home? Secondly, when has appeasement been successful in the past? If anything, appeasement has only ever strengthened the opponent. Take any example, whether of the misguided attempts at appeasement of the Taliban or of any other institution. One of the biggest mistakes weak political governments have made is that of appeasement. Each and every time the opponent took the proverbial mile in lieu of the inch offered. Dawn Leaks is too recent to forget in a series of lessons. First slaughtered was the information minister Pervez Rashid, one of the most trusted confidants of the Prime Minister. Instead of becoming satisfactorily appeased, the opponent fueled the furor even further. Then sacrificed were foreign affairs advisor Tariq Fatemi, a fine and loyal civil servant, and Rao Tehseen, Principle Information Officer in acts of further appeasement. But instead of working to restore egos and cool the anger, this act of appeasement invited an act equivalent to nuking the authority of the Prime Minister: the ‘Notification is REJECTED’ tweet of infructuous fame.
Similarly if any well-intentioned analyst thinks that the Prime Minister’s resignation would calm political temperature and the democratic process and structures will remain safe, they are politically naïve and sadly mistaken. This would only be the first bloody cut of the duel that would continue till the last fatal thrust. The conspiracy won’t go away and will continue to chip away at the precious ‘system’ till the democracy project is well and properly broken and a set up put in place that undermines the project for long enough to manage the making and breaking of parties via defections, blackmail, and bribes etc. with the aim of an eventual return to elections that return either a hung parliament or the the king’s party with a comfortable majority. Foreseeing this is no rocket science, but only an all too familiar repeat telecast of history.
I would therefore humbly submit that for any hope of saving the system, not just his own premiership, the PM should never resign based either on accusations of corruption or on the reasons being advanced by so called analysts or political players or holier than thou, living beyond their means ‘defence analysts’.
As a fascinating aside, dozens and dozens of voters interviewed on television by even unfriendly (to the government) anchors, respond with unshakeable support: ‘No, he should never resign’, ‘no, not even if corruption is proven’, ‘no, we are not blind slaves, we can see what he has done for us’, ‘let me tell you why I will vote for him again and again: there is two hours of load shedding, I reach Shadra in Rs. 20, I see CPEC projects and development all over Pakistan’, ‘vote bas Nawaz Sharif ka (vote is Nawaz Sharif’s)’, ‘ye sab drama hai (this is all drama)’, ‘jhootay ilzam hein (these are false allegations)’, ‘Let me tell you he was a millionaire back in 1970, why has his wealth suddenly struck you now?’. These responses are in the face of Panama, and JIT allegations are being presented to these constituents as facts. My own experience of talking to PML-N voters has been ditto: not a single voter I have spoken to plans to change their voting preference.
The voter sees the trial as a witch-hunt and the usual conspiracy Pakistan’s politicians face. The voter is telling the PM to hang in there and fight. Which indicates that if the PM gives his supporters a call, they will come out, not just for him, but in their own economic self-interest and to protect the mandate and the vote they gave from daylight robbery.