The Joint Investigation Team formed by the Supreme court in its April 20 ruling to probe the allegations of corruption and money-laundering against the sitting Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif and his family has called up the PM to appear before JIT in headquarter on Thursday, June 15. Six-member JIT had been assigned the task of settling once and for all the issue of financial misdeed of ruling family after a trove of financial data from a Panama firm Mossack fonseca was released by International Consortium of Investigative journalists – a Washington-based international network which revealed several heads of states and celebrities around the globe as the beneficiary of thousands of off shore bank accounts and firms registered in Panama and other such tax “havens”. Two sons of Prime Minister were also named in Panama papers and the opposition parties accused the first family of money-laundering and misusing public funds. The JIT has been grilling all the individuals involved in case and now it has asked the PM to appear.
The summoning of Prime minister is certainly a positive development and a step in the right direction. If the highest officer in the country can be summoned and questioned by a team of junior officers then no one is above accountability. It establishes the precedent that political standing and influence will not ensure immunity from rules and regulations. So much as the progressive news it is, the JIT must ensure the respect and regard for the office that Mr. sharif is currently holding. Other individuals appearing before JIT have complained of mistreatment and hostile attitude of team members. A picture of Hussain Nawaz sitting before the team was leaked by unknown elements. The Supreme Court should look into the matter and take immediate steps in this regard so that the JIT do not get politicized and maintain a neutral image required for this investigation. It is very likely that both parties to the case will try to spin the proceedings in their favor but the JIT should not take any step that might make it controversial.
The ruling party PML-N has made the right decision by answering affirmatively to the JIT’s summons. This is the party that routinely complains about weak institutions and imbalance in power and influence of different pillars of the state. Now it has the chance to strengthen these institutions and develop a culture where accountability is a norm, not an exception. There must be no agitation and pressure on JIT from PML-N’s side as has been in the past. Its leaders should advise the over-enthusiastic workers to remain calm and let the law take it due course.Opposition parties should also behave maturely while discussing the issue in public or with media. This is not a political issue but a national one and it should be treated as that in wider national interest. Although the demand by opposition of PM’s resignation till the investigation is over bears some weight but this should not over shadow the fact this is a one of its kind event in the history of Pakistan and it should be appreciated as much.