It has taken over eight years, 150 hearings, 100 adjournments and three chief election commissioners to dig out the facts behind the sources of funding of the Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf. It is an apt comment not just on the roadblocks in the path of justice erected by the PTI, including a handpicked Scrutiny Committee, but also by the Miltablishment and Judiciary who propped up and protected Imran Khan all these years. Now the political environment has changed and the original sin has come back to haunt its perpetrators.
The report of the Election Commission of Pakistan, headed by the brave and upright CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja, on the Foreign Funding Case is a damning indictment of Imran Khan. It accuses the PTI, its leading stalwarts, including Imran Khan, of “willfully and knowingly” receiving prohibited foreign funds, fudging accounts, hiding and siphoning off large sums of money, submitting false affidavits, etc. This is just the tip of the iceberg from 2008-2013. Slowly, more grubby facts are coming to light, thanks to some PTI insider-founders who left the party in disillusionment and disgust after they saw the light. Amongst these, Akbar Sher Babar, who singlehandedly pursued the case against Imran Khan when the latter was all powerful and every state institution was bending over backwards to appease him, deserves unqualified praise for his untiring and heroic efforts.
Undoubtedly, the ECP’s indictment of Imran Khan and PTI is a political boon for the struggling PDM government. It opens the door to disqualifying Imran Khan from being a member of parliament and heading the PTI for lying under oath and convicting several PTI stalwarts for money laundering and embezzlement. It also serves to focus attention on the case of PMLM leader Nawaz Sharif who was disqualified for life from contesting elections by the Supreme Court in 2017 on the ground that he had not disclosed a small, unreceived income from his own son in his sworn statement to the ECP before contesting the 2013 elections. By that yardstick of justice, on the basis of the mountain of evidence of wrong doing marshalled against him, Imran Khan is liable to be disqualified for this life and a hundred lives hereafter!
The PDM government has decided to go all out seeking Imran Khan’s conviction for not being “Sadiq and Ameen”. It will also seek convictions for embezzlement and money laundering by eleven of Khan’s lieutenants, including the ex-Speaker of the National Assembly, Asad Qaisar, and ex-Governor of Sindh, Imran Ismail. But it is mulling the pros and cons of applying to the Supreme Court to ban the PTI. The case for banning the party is weak. Also, it is never a good idea to ban a popular mainstream party that can easily be reincarnated under a different name and enjoy the perks of victimhood. Equally, a rebuff by the SC can revive a party’s flagging fortunes.
The case has highlighted the injustice meted out to Nawaz Sharif in 2017. How will the current CJP, Omar Ata Bandial, fare in the cast-iron case against Imran Khan? If he is perceived to be partisan and biased, he may be fated to serve term in the dog house of history like his predecessors Saqib Nisar and Asif Khosa.
Imran Khan has always known the magnitude of his deception. That is why he has stalled the ECP for eight years. But when he realized that Sikandar Sultan Raja was determined to expose his lies, he launched a relentless attack on the CEC. But, shorn of Miltablishment support and protection, he is flailing about quite helplessly.
If Imran Khan is convicted as ordained by law and constitution, the debate will turn on the political consequences of his formal lifetime ouster. Unlike Nawaz Sharif whose party fell back on its dynastic moorings for survival, the PTI may find it hard to struggle without the prospect of Imran Khan in power.
Understandably, there is chatter of a new Charter of Democracy between Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif that amends the constitution to enable both leaders and parties to live and let live. But that will require the Mother of all U-Turns by Imran Khan because his popular narrative has been built on the forceful annihilation of the “thieving” PPP and PMLN.
The Miltablishment and Judiciary that jointly committed the original sin of destabilizing a 2/3rd mandated elected PMLN government and deposing a thrice elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, from 2013-2018 in order to install a hybrid Imran Khan regime have much to atone for. The national economic crash that has followed recent political upheaval is entirely to their account.
A common popular prescription is for free and fair elections in an environment of state neutrality and fair play. The Miltablishment-Judiciary can either level the playing field by convicting Imran Khan and consigning him to exile like Nawaz Sharif. But that would politically compound the original sin. Or they can facilitate the return of Nawaz Sharif to lead his party as a free man after overturning his various kangaroo convictions while condoning those of Imran Khan. A stroke of the pen by parliament or Supreme Court can kill the notorious law that has become the bane of parliamentary lives. That would amount to redeeming the “original sin” if both state institutions were also to acknowledge the limits of their constitutional roles, going forward.