As court removes Pakistani PM, socialists call for accountability, democracy

Nawaz Sharif.
Saturday, August 5, 2017

Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously on July 28 to disqualify the country’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, from office in relation to the exposure of secret assets as part of the Panama Papers leaks.

The court has referred Sharif’s case to the country's top anti-corruption authority for an investigation into his family's offshore assets. His party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, will have to appoint an interim prime minister to serve until the next election, due midway through next year.

Below is a July 28 statement on the verdict from Awami Workers Party, a socialist group in Pakistan. It is slightly edited for clarity.

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The Supreme Court verdict on the Panama Papers will deepen Pakistan’s political crisis rather than stem the menace of corruption. The Awami Workers Party (AWP) expresses concern at the disqualification of an elected prime minister by invoking the controversial articles 62 and 63 inserted in the constitution during a military dictator as it will open a Pandora’s box.

It is, in fact, a conflict between the establishment and a section of the ruling class over control of resources and power. Corruption is just a ploy.

The decision has set a new precedent that henceforth all political controversies, economic and governance issues will be settled through courts and not through Parliament. It will thus have serious consequences for democracy and the country.

In a joint statement, AWP president Fanoos Gujjar, general secretary Akhtar Hussain, senior vice president Yousaf Masti Khan and spokesperson Farooq Tariq criticised those who are jubilant on the verdict.

“One should neither be jubilant nor doom and gloom on the decision,” the AWP leaders said.

The decision, they said, would not change the essence of an anti-people political and economic system beset by innumerable internal contradictions.

“The Supreme Court’s unanimous verdict will neither stem the fast creeping menace of corruption nor provide any relief to the common man,” AWP leaders said.

The party has demanded across-the-board accountability of all in-service and retired judges, military officers, civil bureaucracy, religious leaders and politicians. It said it would be meaningless if one individual or a family was made target in the name of accountability.

The AWP has been demanding the abolition of the draconian laws, controversial articles like 62 and 63 and ultra-constitutional bodies like Shariat Court and Islamic Ideology Council, which are being used against politicians, democratic dispensations and minorities. It is the Federal Shariat Court that had declared land reforms “un-Islamic” to protect the feudal class and tribal chiefs’ interests.

The leaders reminded the people of the same trials and propaganda unleashed against political leaders had removed some on the pretext of either corruption or national security.

They questioned the political acumen of those populist political parties and elements seeking to make the people believe that if they were given a chance, they would stem corruption and everything would be alright.

It serves to confirm that all mainstream parties are concerned only with the acquisition of power. None have the ability to oversee a transformative shift in the system of governance.

“Neither the ruling party nor the opposition parties are sincere in weeding out corruption and money laundering”, the AWP leaders said. “They just want their turns to grab the power and continue the loot and plunder of the national exchequer and maintain the status quo.”

The AWP believes that the so-called crisis of corruption is not attributable to one party, family or person. The Panama Papers confirmed that most of the global elite are implicated in the acquisition of wealth through illicit means.

Corruption cannot be done away with by simply replacing one party of the elite with another. “Corruption” is, in fact, a pillar of the bureaucratic capitalist system that prevails in Pakistan and around the world.

The AWP has consistently maintained that the real issues of working people in Pakistan relate to joblessness, rising inflation, poverty, religious extremism, the manipulations of the establishment and environmental degradation.

Meanwhile, global imperialist powers continue to shamelessly exploit the country’s resources. All of these genuine issues are absent from the agenda of all mainstream parties.

The AWP demanded a broadening of the investigation of money laundering and the inclusion of all those industrialists, in-service and retired judges, generals and bureaucrats who have been accumulating power and resources systematically for decades.

The leaders also warned that any move to derail the democratic process through extra-constitutional means would be resisted tooth and nail.

They urged all progressive, socialist and secular democratic forces to join hands and fight against feudalism, capitalism, religious extremism and the neoliberal economic agenda that thrives on corruption.