When the media circus begins almost daily outside either the Supreme Court or the Judicial Academy in Islamabad, where PM Nawaz Sharif and his family is going through a process of serious questioning, it is time for free and hilarious entertainment.
But behind the circus is a well coordinated, well-thought strategy. It is to keep the investigators under pressure, keep supporters motivated and keep hope alive. So far it is hardly producing the desired results.
The screw is thus being tightened and as PML-N leaders come out after strategy sessions, their tag-team performances reveal parts of that strategy in bits and pieces.
On Wednesday more information was given between the lines than before the TV cameras. “The JIT is like a butcher’s shop,” one leader said referring to questioning by JIT members in a room where Hussain Nawaz was seated beside a table with a writing pad, pen and a tissue box.
Objections like a WhatsApp call, basically a non-issue turned into a hot-air balloon, release of a Hussain Nawaz’s picture, family links of two JIT members, are good for crying to the media about but not good enough for the SC bench to actually stop the JIT proceedings altogether
“This is insulting the first family,” another leader roared. “If JIT can’t stop leakage of a screen shot of PM’s son, how will it provide justice” “We are being politically victimized and I am saying from day-1 that this JIT is either biased against us or incompetent,” stated Talal Choudhry. Punjab’s Law Minister even mentioned a street agitation and promised to lead it. Daniyal Aziz, Dr Fazal, Mr Kirmani, some ladies also join in. The circus then goes on.
This media strategy reflects a growing and deeply ingrained fear in PML-N ranks that the SC probe into the Panama case is not going well.
How could they have imagined that an issue which kept lingering on for over a year has not faded away but has now reached the stage where a formal team of investigators is interrogating family members of the PM.
Tons of documents have been received and made part of the record, long dead and almost buried cases like Hudaybia, the Rehman Malik report on money laundering, the letters from the Qatar prince, forgotten witnesses and families have been called to testify, even top officials known to be favourites of the PM have been forced to appear and give their statements.
These are matters of serious concern. The Panama freight train does not appear to have functioning brakes.
Hence every legal ploy is being used to slow it down or stop it. The judges of the SC were told by the JIT that impediments and obstructions were being created but so far no substantial or solid point has been raised.
Objections like a WhatsApp call, basically a non-issue turned into a hot-air balloon, release of a Hussain Nawaz’s picture, family links of two JIT members, are good for crying on the media but not good enough for the SC bench to actually stop JIT proceeding.
The snapshot itself shows it was taken even before the questioning began on May 28, so how could it be called a scene from a butcher’s shop.
The judges have not shown any sign of getting disturbed by these pressure tactics. They know, more than anyone else, how JITs in Pakistan work, how interrogators prepare the ordinary accused and criminals for questioning sessions, what tactics are used and why some of these even inhuman ways are still deployed. Some TV channels have replayed those heinous scenes to refresh public memory.
The questioning of the PM’s family, in an air-conditioned room with a crowd of slogan mongers waiting outside, is not a violation of any human right. World over accused are seated behind a table in an isolated room and asked questions by people sometimes sitting behind dark glasses and screens.
All over the world these interrogations are recorded, videoed and made part of the legal and criminal record. Internet and Google are full of such cases available at the touch of a laptop key. Some accused were even put inside cages and then questioned and tried.
There is thus a clear method in the cries of PML-N leaders. They are preparing grounds for appeals and reviews after the SC bench delivers its judgment once the Panama JIT completes its work in less than 30 days. The bench has categorically stated not one extra day will be allowed.
This is troubling for the accused as pressure is not working and the only option is to politicize, discredit and attack the JIT and the SC bench itself.
The motive is to somehow become political martyrs and go to the people as victims of another conspiracy, if not by the military establishment, then by the judicial set up ostensibly backed by the regular establishment.
The military establishment backed-off on the issue of Dawn Leaks just to avoid giving the government a pretext that it was being pushed around again by the same forces that threw Nawaz Sharif out in 1999.
The next best option is to get ousted by the judiciary, crying foul that all have conspired again to derail democracy.
The honest option to come clean has not, and is not, being exercised.