A game-changer or what? | Shaheen Sehbai

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As the nation waits for a landmark judgment by the apex court, much of which seems written on the wall, what is being seriously watched is how far it may go to stop and reverse the southward slide of country’s moral fibre, decay of state institutions, political, financial or bureaucratic.

The Panama ordeal and its revelations during the past year and a half have exposed more than anyone may have imagined.

It told us that not just the king had no clothes, many others had skeletons hidden in their closets by the dozen.

Institutions like the NAB, State Bank, SECP, FBR almost admitted their collapse. The SC judges declared NAB as dead and SECP chief was caught with his hands in the cookie jar and is now behind bars. The SBP and FBR were caught napping.

The Parliament proved it was not even a debating room but a club of scavengers collecting their booty.

The bureaucrats, though confused, were more worried about their promotions and postings before their favourite king faced a negative verdict.

Politicians of different hue tried to adopt to the changing scenario but many were worried about their own future, some even deciding to stay away from the country.

The lawyers and the media got divided for and against, based on their vested interests, some not able to decide on which side of the fence to stand.

The people and those with thinking minds are wondering where the country, and they, will go from here.

So in this murky and cloudy weather will the Supreme Court deliver a judgment that could lay down the basis for looking forward to the future with confidence and hope?

This probably is the last chance though. Some institutions like the judiciary itself, the security establishment and portions of the officialdom have set inspiring examples.

The Army stayed away from the fray, focusing on its primary task and not getting sucked into the dirty pond of conspiracies and accusations
The army stayed away from the fray, focussing on its primary task and not getting sucked into the dirty pond of conspiracies and accusations.

The apex court ignored all the mud and sludge thrown at it by minions of those under trial and kept everything else to be settled after the big job was done. Some cases to settle those accounts have already begun like the Nehal Hashmi and Geo-Jang contempt cases.

What is being speculated is whether only one-time punishments would be handed down or some permanent mechanism would be put in place for those who got badly exposed in Panama, either violating laws or not performing their tasks as mandated by their oaths and job requirements.

Will it be only the king who unfortunately could not see himself in the mirror or will the courtiers in similar clothes also be noticed and reprimanded.

The apex court can be a game changer in the Panama case. It can revive institutions, create new ones like a permanent JIT, punish those who have admitted their failings and set examples for others.

It can give confidence to those who live and work under permanent fear and pressure of political bosses or crony appointees put by them at the top of institutions.

Pakistan can be put back on rails by just one big courageous verdict which handles some, if not all, of the maladies that have been exposed.

What happens to the many new violations of law, ethics and professional conduct that have emerged will have to be seen. As Panama case nears its end, a spate of revelations have begun to flow out of its open, and some closed, boxes containing the evidence.

So while the prime minister was caught with documents holding a neatly concealed job and work visa in a foreign land, his many minions have also started admitting they were also in the same boat.

This opens a whole new chapter to unfold. If the apex court is decides to carry the burden that has fallen on its unwitting shoulders, at least one strong JIT can be set up to look into foreign connections of all those who run the country or have chosen to offer their services as leaders and policy makers.

It can be determined how our out of office heads of state, ministers, bureaucrats and leaders immediately settle down in foreign lands without even asking for asylum. Have they already made the deals with outsiders, just in case the weather changes at home? What price they have, or promised, to pay for their freely available sanctuaries?

Many such questions can be answered if the Panama case is treated as a watershed moment to restore some semblance of dignity and sanity in our march forward as a civilized, trustworthy and confident nation.

Failure to do so will unleash a deep wave of disappointment, depression and vengeance that could take any shape.

Pakistan cannot afford to drift like a rudderless ship in stormy waters. It needs stability at the top, honesty, commitment and a clear sense of direction.

The writer is a senior journalist