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26 May - 01 June , 2012
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VIEWPOINTShabby Tactics To Persecute Sharif Brothers
by TARIQ BUTT

The federal government, beleaguered by the intense pressure mounted by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the wake of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's conviction by the Supreme Court on contempt charge, has embarked upon appalling course of persecuting Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif by trying to reopen alleged money laundering and other criminal cases against them, which are more than 15 years old. For over four years that the Pakistan Rehman MalikPeople's Party (PPP) has been in government, enjoying all the powers, it did not even think of carrying out the "accountability" of top PML-N leaders the way it has started now.
If there were any real and solid cases for which the Sharif brothers and other members of their family have to be arraigned, they should have been instituted, investigated and taken to the logical conclusion during the last four years. The mere fact of this extremely delayed initiation of the cases shows that they have no basis and attempts are being made to revive them just to stave off the pressure that has been exerted on the government due to Gilani's conviction and his clinging to the exalted office of the prime minister. Nobody is and should be opposed to a genuine accountability of all and sundry because it is the dire need of the hour. It should be across the board regardless of the political status and position of any corrupt person. But the government opened its eyes one fine morning to beat the dead horse, only when it has been cornered by the PML-N. Therefore, the start of these cases against top opposition politicians is nothing but witch-hunting. That the government was in deep slumber for four years clearly shows that it doesn't believe that any real cases existed for which the Sharif brothers should be made accountable. What has been launched is just political gimmickry, and the government is well aware that nothing would come out of the exercise. In reality, this is the government's answer through Interior Minister Rehman Malik to Sharifs' campaign and their constant efforts to make political inroads.
Hardly anyone, even in the ranks of the ruling PPP, would take seriously what the interior minister is saying concerning accountability of the Sharif brothers. He has mastered in issuing statements every now and then, forgetting what he has previously said. He lacks credibility. Sharifs' staunch political enemy, Pervez Musharraf, could not find anything against them in the 1997 storming of the Supreme Court when stubborn Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah was its chief, and in the money laundering charges against them; Nawaz Sharifotherwise the military ruler would have got them convicted. The point is not that the Sharif brothers are innocent and have committed no sin or crime, but the reality is that they have not been tried for nearly two decades for the accusations which are now being presented to the public amid high publicity. That nothing was done during this long period leaves no doubt in anybody's mind that these cases have no credibility and no substances.
As part of this vendetta, a former accountant of the Sharif business empire, 70-plus Mohammad Akram, was recently picked up by the officials of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) when he was returning to his Shadman Lahore residence after saying prayers in the nearby mosque. He later got a case of kidnapping registered against them. After this incident, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah declared that Rehman Malik would be arrested if it was established that he was behind Akram's abduction. These are shabby tactics which can no more serve to browbeat political adversaries. But still the interior minister, who is acting on the express directions of President Asif Ali Zardari, believes that he can and would deliver this way, meaning that he would succeed in taming and toning down the pressure put by the Sharif brothers on his boss, the prime minister and their government. Too much water has flown down the bridge; those days are gone when such machinations used to produce results.
After the dumping of loudmouth Babar Awan due to his own follies and for going too far in showing loyalty to the president, Rehman Malik has sprung into action on the force of his official position of being the chief policeman of the federal government to rein in the Sharif brothers. The main force he has at his command, that is ready to dance to his tunes is the FIA. The agency has so far got scot-free on the charge of abducting Akram. Next time, it may not save itself from the long arms of the Punjab police, controlled by the Sharif brothers.
Such a confrontation would certainly spawn a nightmarish situation. If a presidential aide is to be believed, Shahbaz Sharifhe had stated about a year back that the government would harp on the alleged corruption cases against the Sharif brothers when the next general elections would be close. This has now happened although the government's efforts have been redoubled by the PML-N's campaign following Gilani's sentencing by the apex court. As the forthcoming parliamentary polls draw close, the PPP is bringing the cat out of the bag – starting persecution of its political opponents. In the process, it has buried its self-serving and bogus policy of reconciliation, which was in fact based on political opportunism. The interior minister wants the Islamabad police that is under his direct control to question Shahbaz Sharif in connection with the storming of the apex court. A senior police officer has even issued summons to him but at the same time stressed that registration of any case against him would politically embarrass the government because this was a 15-year-old case. Interestingly, the Supreme Court had sentenced and convicted nearly half a dozen PML-N leaders for raiding it. Due to this punishment, they had been disqualified to contest any elections since then. About the revival of corruption cases, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has announced that it was reviewing them to see whether these called for filing of reference in the concerned courts.
In the presence of Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari as the NAB chairman, the so called anti-corruption organization can do anything to please the government. But it is a hard fact that the Supreme Court is closely monitoring his performance. It has not yet taken up a petition in which leader of opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan challenged Bokhari's appointment as NAB chairman. However, due to the PML-N's pressure, the Sharif brothers' tacit approval to his nomination (with the exception of Chaudhry Nisar) it will be very difficult for Bokhari to take any extreme step against the top PML-N leaders. All the "corruption" cases that Rehman Malik has referred to the NAB have either been decided by courts over the past few years or are pending disposal in judicial bodies. Even interior minister doesn't believe that any of the Sharifs would be convicted on these charges. His objective is nothing but to malign and scandalize the Sharif brothers in a bid to whittle down the pressure on the government. But ironically, his campaign has not achieved the desired goal so far because Sharifs have not diluted their movement against the prime minister; instead they are intensifying it day by day. While the mud-slinging match has polluted the political environment further, Prime Minister Gilani is persistently and shamelessly sticking to his office, defying the logic and arguments that he should bow out honouring the judicial verdict. His awful naivety was once again exposed when he told a bewildered CNN interviewer during his recent visit to Britain that nobody is stopping the one-third population from leaving Pakistan if it willed to do so. Does such a person deserve to lead the nation as prime minister? Certainly not. He brought immense shame to Pakistanis.

 
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