Panama and now sugar: woes endless | Ayaz Amir

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When it rains it pours. The Nooras are finding this out for themselves. Is their proverbial luck finally running out? What is unfolding is certainly extraordinary, something they have never experienced before – Panama not leaving them, the court hearings again about to begin, the ordeal all set to continue, and as if all this was not enough there comes the Supreme Court order, emanating from no less than My Lord the Chief Justice himself, that the Sharif sugar mills, three of them, shifted to southern Punjab, should stop crushing sugarcane until the principal case is disposed of by the Lahore High Court where, to the Sharifs’ discomfort, it has been remanded for final disposal.

Through the years, and they have been at the game of power and pocket-lining for a long time, the longest in Pakistan’s history, the Sharifs have had their indulgent judges who could be depended upon to return, let’s say, indulgent verdicts. But were they to draw up a list of obliging judges it can be taken as a certainty that Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah would not figure in it – to whom the sugar case has been remanded.

A pox on so-called independent judges…you can almost hear hoarse voices muttering.

Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest, said Henry the Second, and his barons went at Thomas Becket, putting their swords into him. Can no one rid us of these troublesome judges? Wouldn’t this be the refrain today? But times have changed and options have dwindled and, pity the circumstances, it is no longer possible to do what the PML-N managed so brilliantly in 1997, storm the Supreme Court and send My Lord the Chief Justice and two of his brothers fleeing.

PML-N ministers, the usual loudmouths, have been reduced to issuing empty threats and enunciating a new doctrine of infallibility, that Nawaz Sharif is prime minister through the power of the vote and only through the ballot box can he be made to leave, a doctrine which if applied in the US would have prevented the Watergate scandal because Nixon would have mounted the unanswerable defence that he was elected by the people…and who was anyone else to impeach him?

This is the season of wonders and wonderful things, straight out of story books, are happening…miraculous tidings from fabulous Qatar and dutiful sons laying everything missing at the altar of their much-loved late father. To every question of their lordships recourse has been made either to the Sindbad of Qatar or to the patriarch now with his Maker, Mian Muhammad Sharif. Of such stuff is filial piety made…and you will have to hand it to them that while these hilarious tactics are being executed no one concerned seems to feel a morsel of shame.

And so infectious is the example being set that even their lawyers, some of the glibbest across the land, are hard put to trot out plausible arguments in defence of the London flats and the offshore accounts. Hearing some of the tales it is all that ordinary mortals can do not to burst out laughing. Their lordships have not the same liberty. Gravity must sit on their countenances whatever the comedy.

His Excellency the President is no fool. Was his a measured statement or did he blurt out the truth inadvertently when he said – and truer words were never spoken – that the Panama leaks were a visitation from the skies? In their long stay at the highest echelons of Pakistani politics the ruling cadre has never experienced anything like this. Over the years charges have been hurled at them with nothing ever sticking – not the Asghar Khan case involving money taken from that holy sanctum, the ISI, for use in the 1990 elections, not even the Model Town massacre, carried out in the very heart of Lahore with nothing coming out of it, at least none to date.

It is as if no human agency but creatures from outer space were responsible for the killings. Anywhere else, say in Syria, this would have provoked an international outcry with our American friends leading the chorus of indignation. The assault, the entire sequence of events leading up to it, is there captured by a hundred TV cameras but it is as if the memory of it has been sucked into a black hole.

Where is the Justice Baqar Najafi report? What has become of it? What lurking fear or premonition prevents its being made public?

So it is not a little strange that having escaped so much the sturdy ships should now be stuck on the rocks of the Panama papers with no stratagem working, and on the minds of a sceptical public no argument leaving much of an impression, whether backed by Qatari flights of fancy or reverential references to the dear departed.

Now out of the blue – from where everything seems to be emerging – comes another thunderbolt. With enough piled up on their plate already the ruling clan could have done without the order regarding their relocated sugar mills. If nothing else it puts the spotlight on their endless business interests, and prompts the question: how much is enough? How much land does a man require? How much money does he need?

Here is the chief minister of Punjab amending a 2006 notification banning the relocation of sugar mills to suit the business interests of his extended family, and pursuant to that amendment three sugar mills are shifted to south Punjab’s cotton-growing belt. This is pretty blatant but since when did such considerations have much of an effect on Pakistan’s ruling families?

One Zardari should have been enough for any Fortress of Islam. Here the Sharifs seem to be outplaying Zardari at his game. The PPP was supposed to be blatant and crude while the Sharifs were said to be cautious and subtle. The PPP’s corruption read like an open book while for the Sharifs it was claimed that they always covered their tracks. The Panama affair has made nonsense of this dialectic. It is now the Sharifs who look clumsy and flat-footed.

And at least, give it to the man, Zardari never made any snivelling excuses. When facing his many ordeals he relied on no Qatari proxies; nor did he shift responsibility on his late father, Hakim Ali Zardari. His smile never left him, even when he spent long years in jail and had to face one hearing after another. Look at these guys…they are constantly wiping their noses.

After his fall from grace and power Musharraf has conducted himself like a man, not spinning too many yarns and seldom uttering a harsh word about those whom he heaped with favours in his days of glory but who were not to be seen in his hour of adversity. But may Allah preserve the present lot as they shift from foot to foot and outdo some of the greatest writers of mystery tales.