A Progressive Precedent

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By Azhar Hashmi

The Joint Investigation Team formed by the Supreme court in its April 20 ruling to investigate the allegations of corruption and money-laundering against the sitting Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif and his family has summoned the PM to appear before JIT in headquarter Federal Judicial academy on Thursday, June 15. Six-member JIT had been assigned the task of probing the Premier and his family financial dealings. 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 surely Pakistan is going 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 the law. 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. Regardless of political affiliations, Pakistanis must acknowledge this progressive precedent that is being set after the summoning of highest authority in the country. That’s the first when a sitting Premier is going to appear before subordinate officers.

PMLN, the ruling party has also welcome this positive precedent in the country and ensured that the Prime Minister Main Muhammad Nawaz Sharif will appear before investigation team on due date. Prime Minister has also asked his enthusiastic workers to stay away from the JIT secretariat on his appearance. Although some leaders of PMLN are showing immature attitude and threatening the people who are investigating. Overall PMLN senior leadership attitude is highly commendable. This is the right time for Sharif family that can clear their names from money laundering scams and later in general election they can claim their honesty and loyalty to the nation.

This precedent is also good omen for Pakistani emerging economy. Rule of law, peace, governance and economy are interlinked. Without rule of law, no one can bring peace in society. When nobody consider themselves accountable then countries become banana states. Where rule of law exists, government and its institutions are accountable and in this way governance gets better.

Constitutionally, everybody is accountable but actually we considers themselves above the law. So mere legislation is not but enforcement of law as well. Situation of enforcement of law is very critical. Suppose a person travelling on National Highway doesn’t care about the traffic laws, rules and regulations and when he enters motorway, suddenly the same person become law abiding. That is the result of law enforcement that one, who was driving wildly, suddenly becomes civilized.

In a democratic society the rule of law reflects the quality of governance. Weak enforcement of the law provides space to criminals and terrorists to further their aims. The rule of law requires balance between rights and responsibilities, where no one is above the law, including the government. The Constitution guarantees fundamental rights and everyone is supposed to have access to justice, including the accused.

Tax evasion, money laundering, corruption are the biggest threat to society. Rights and duties are directly proportional to each other. In our society everyone is crying for their rights and they don’t bother about their duties. Pakistanis wants to enjoy subsidies given by government but nobody is ready to give taxes. There are few million people who give direct tax. When people don’t pay direct taxes, government have to impose indirect taxes to run the institutions and functionaries. Pakistan is an agricultural country, but agricultural industry has tax exemption.
According to a media report only 0.81 million people filed tax returns despite the fact that some 3.39 million people possessed National Tax Numbers. “Only 0.6pc of the population pays taxes in Pakistan, as against 4.7pc in India, 58pc in France and 80pc in Canada,”

When institutions fail to protect human rights and dispense justice, the space is filled by non-state actors. The low conviction rate encourages criminals. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, during 2012 in cases of terrorism, the conviction rate was only 4pc. Overall in Pakistan the conviction rate varies from 5pc to 10pc, whereas in the US it is 95pc. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau data, in that country during 2012 the conviction rate was 38.5pc. Our institution are so weak especially judiciary at lower level. They can’t even convict a terrorists, so we have to establish military courts despite having democratic system.

This is the right time, when we can strengthen our institutions especially judiciary. On 15th June a progressive precedent is going to be established, when the highest authority of a county will appear before his subordinate officers. In developed countries, that’s a big deal, but developing country like Pakistan, its miracle. On this historic day we can educate our nation through media that how rule of law is mandatory for peace, economy, investment and governance.

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