Following the 2016 Panama Papers leak, it was revealed that the Prime Minister of Pakistan and his family held offshore bank accounts in order to avoid taxation. Although Nawaz Sharif consistently denied any wrongdoing, five judges in the Pakistani Supreme Court unanimously agreed on a guilty verdict, on July 28th, 2017. Overall, the Supreme Court agrees that Sharif had been “dishonest in not disclosing his earnings from a Dubai-based company in his nomination papers during the 2013 general election”, meaning that he is no longer fit to hold any public office for the rest of his life. In other words, the Supreme Court of Pakistan unanimously found Nawaz Sharif guilty of corruption.
While this means that Nawaz Sharif has been effectively impeached from his role as Prime Minister and a Member of Parliament, Sharif has resigned his post following the decision. Additionally, The Court has also insisted on opening anti-corruption cases against other parties, such as Sharif’s daughter Maryam, and other family members. For the first time, Pakistan’s ruling political dynasty has been toppled and could be facing some serious consequences.
This historic ruling sets an imperative precedent: The Rule of Law is alive in Pakistan, or at least it’s being revived. For the majority of Pakistan’s history, politicians and business leaders alike could get away with tax evasion and other corrupt means. Despite these claims, these political leaders could stay in power and be found not guilty in a Court of Law. Through bribes and other corrupt methods, these influential leaders were capable of retaining power. However, through this decision, the Pakistan has made it very clear that politicians and influential leaders in the country are not exempt from following the law. Nobody is above the law and as such, all will be treated equally under the eyes of the law. Including the Prime Minister.
In terms of a precedent for the country, Pakistan repeated history in the sense that Nawaz Sharif is just another Prime Minister who never finished a full term in office. While many believe that the country is better off with Sharif in power, it doesn’t change the fact that Pakistan has, yet again, fallen into political turmoil and possibly found itself in a constitutional crisis.
However, this decision also sends a message to all of Pakistan’s allies and foes: Pakistan is cracking down on corrupt political leaders. Corruption has been a part of political history for Pakistan and in some cases, many citizens view it as a part of the country. However, as the Supreme Court continues to crack down on Sharif and the rest of his family members, it shows that corruption no longer has a place in Pakistan and as such, the country is moving on to embrace more democratic values.
Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, US relations with Pakistan have been imbalanced and unpredictable. Although the Bush Administration treated Pakistan as a valuable ally in the so-called ‘War on Terror’, that mood has shifted considerably. Pakistan and the United States have had a rocky relationship as the US withheld $800 million of aid to Pakistan, all starting with the Obama Administration. Additionally, following the capture of Osama Bin Laden who was hiding in Pakistan, the American Government believed that the Pakistani Government potentially played a role in hiding the terrorist in the country. Not only that, but the United States has held some reservations over the years concerning Pakistan’s commitment to the fight against Islamic terror, furthering tensions between the two countries as the United States continues to set their sights on defeating the Islamic State.
However, the decision to fight against corruption in the Supreme Court shows that Pakistan is opening up to Western values, such as upholding the rule of law. As a result, the United States should not be concerned if the Pakistani Government supports terrorism. But rather, would the Pakistani Government be willing to spread democratic values throughout the region. Maybe, just maybe, the US could seek out a valuable ally with Pakistan concerning the fight against terror yet once again. Either way, a show of openness towards democratic and western values sends a positive message to the West.
This decision also makes another thing clear: the desire for justice and democracy is currently in the air. Not just in Pakistan, but in the world. As Nawaz Sharif packs up his things and leaves the desk of the Prime Minister forever, calls for President Trump’s impeachment is drowning American media. While the Senate Committee and the FBI continue to probe into Trump’s ties to Russia, particularly with their election campaign, the desire for justice and true democracy is in the air. Meaning that if solid evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia ever does surface, the demand for his impeachment will only skyrocket. The message here is clear: if Pakistan, a third world country, is capable of impeaching their corrupt Prime Minister, so is America.
What comes next for Pakistan now? Pakistan’s constitution doesn’t outline the next course of action should a Prime Minister be impeached, however, Pakistan’s current ruling party in Parliament, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), is required to select an interim Prime Minister. That is, until the 2018 General Election. Despite the fact that Nawaz Sharif has been ousted, his brother Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has been nominated to take the reins.
Regardless, this decision is a staunch reminder that democracy and the rule of law do exist in Pakistan. Despite the political turmoil that has haunted the country since its’ founding in 1947, perhaps this is a step in the right direction.