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Pakistan Today Editorial – 23rd April 2016

Hopefully this is more than a symbolic act

Cleaning out the ranks

Gen Raheel Sharif has taken a courageous step to remove eight army officers from service; including a Lt. Gen, a Major General, five Brigadiers and three Colonels on charges of corruption. Hopefully this would be the beginning of a process of cleansing the army of personnel responsible for damaging the institution’s image. If followed consistently, this would improve discipline and promote professionalism. The army has been criticized in the past for shielding corrupt officers from laws applied to the rest of the population on the plea that the army had a strict discipline which made corruption impossible in its ranks. It was also maintained that the army had a strict accountability system which promptly punished anyone violating the law. The argument was untenable in the presence of damaging evidence about a number of high ranking army officers who had turned into billionaires.

The announcement will put pressure on the government which has failed to provide a satisfactory explanation of how the Prime Minister’s children managed to accumulate billions in property abroad. Despite demands from the opposition and media the government has continued to dodge the formation of an independent mechanism of enquiry for nearly a fortnight thus adding more suspicions to those already persisting.

The opposition is unanimous over two demands: a probe by the incumbent CJ and forensic audit by a reputable international auditing body. The government which is to defend itself insists on appointing an enquiry commission headed by a retired judge of its own choice following TORS formulated by the government itself. This is against norms of natural justice. There is a need on the part of the government to immediately call upon the CJ in writing to preside over the proposed commission. The opposition parties meanwhile should work out the TORS through mutual consultation. In case the government remains adamant this would cause confusion and political confrontation which would harm both the government and the system.

Towards a transparent probe

Moving beyond rhetoric

The Prime Minister’s third address in a month to the nation was no different from the earlier ones. He spent most of the time in underlining the patriotism of his family and recounting the sufferings he and his family had to undergo during the Bhutto regime and the Musharraf era. He railed at three political parties demanding a transparent enquiry without mentioning their names, PMLQ, PTI and PPP. He reminded the media of the need to stop leveling unfounded charges against him. In the last thirty seconds of the address Nawaz Sharif announced what everybody had been waiting to hear. He was writing, he said, to the CJ to appoint a commission to probe the issues connected with the Panama leaks. Thus the PM at last agreed to what the opposition had been demanding all along. Many think the matter required only a statement from the government instead of an address by the PM which is delivered when making vital policy announcements

While hearing another case earlier, the CJ had put forth a rhetorical question: Is the appointment of the commission the job of the judiciary or of the executive branch which commands all the institutions? It remains to be seen how the CJ responds to the proposal which now enjoys public support as is brought out by the unanimity on the demand displayed by all major political parties. Will the CJ personally supervise the probe? Will he hand it over to a commission of his choice? Or will he set up a national task force on the lines suggested by the SCBA? And who will formulate the TORs, the government, the opposition, or the CJ?

There is no unanimity of views among the opposition regarding who is to conduct the probe if the CJ excuses himself. The PPP has suggested a parliamentary committee headed by an opposition member to act as the enquiry commission. The PTI has rejected the proposal without offering an alternative. The matter thus will have to be referred to Parliament.

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