Whatever the arguments to the contrary that the media and legal wizards might like to forward, no answer has yet been found to this question being asked by common citizens for the last six plus decades as to why the country has not yet been able to build up a failsafe system of proving the allegations in judicial forums against the corrupt, the plunderers, the terrorists and hardened criminals and desperadoes.
In plain words, it simply means why it is so that the wrongdoers whose evil credentials are known to the entire society and the people in their neighbourhood and even in other towns and villages, are most often pronounced innocent on the basis of scanty or no-evidence.
Does the evidence evaporate in thin air? And if at all, it has to evaporate in thin air, why it is so that the culprits get scot-free in more than two-third of cases instituted against them under the Pakistan Penal Code or other laws in force including the infamous Anti-Terrorism Act and the practically crippled Anti-Corruption Act known as 5(2) 47 in legal jargon, since this Act dates back to the year 1947 and 5 ( 2) are its provisions dealing with acts of corruption committed by people in position of authority.
People are not so naïve to ask this question which is an exceptionally valid question because this sorry state of affairs in our system has brought sufferings in the lives of millions of people. Moreover, the people draw comparison with the legal systems of other countries of the world where proving a wrongdoer wrong is not an impossibility as it so happens in majority of cases in our country.
However, now people have started hoping lot of improvement following the emergence of judicial activism inspired by Chief Justice, Mr Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who has rectified many errors in the system.
But most of the people are still not easily willing to accept the declaration made so vehemently by the House of Sharifs especially its scion in real power (Punjab is still deemed to be the hub of power), Mian Shahbaz Sharif, that ‘those having doubts about our assets, should prove it in the court’.
The underlying belief -or misconception- is that in our country there can be proof of honest means but no proof of dishonest means of income that include tax evasion, under-invoicing, power pilferage, regular bribes given to functionaries from different departments who happen to be on the regular payroll of some enterprising entrepreneurs to help them out in moments of distress (including financial distress).
This ‘proving-and-’proof’ business has also become a commonplace thing following the frequent statements of PM Syed Yusuf Raza Gillani and many of his partymen whose rhetoric ‘go to the courts if you’ve any evidence against us’, has become a routine gossip.
Anyway, it is a moment of delight for the masses that their supremos have at last realized the significance of presenting themselves and their assets’ details before the public, through media. Even if these presentations contain half-truth, some kind of benefit of doubt must be given to the leaders undergoing this realization.
Perhaps they have played the right cards at the right time. At least now one can guess that their assets are in safe hands. For sure, this is no allusion to the strategic assets being in safe hands, since safe hands protecting the vital or national strategic assets can go unsafe once the half truth turns out to be a total lie. So, the politicians at the helm of affairs better abandon the rhetoric ‘go to the courts’ and instead start treading the fair path.
A day before writing these lines, I’ve, however, received a communication from one Ejaz Khan of Lahore. It goes like this, “I have gone through your column titled ‘Budha in CM’s casing’ in ‘The News’ a few days back. Besides other things, it mentions the transparent methods resorted to by the Sharif family for the purchase of land for their Jati Umra palace at a time when Mian Nawaz Sharif was the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Through this letter, however, I want to point out that some officials of Punjab government including the TMA Iqbal Town functionaries and police officers, from SHO to the SP levels, are frequently sending sugar-coated but really threatening messages to the local agro-based industrialists who also earn foreign exchange and are doing business according to rules and regulations and standard practices just in the close neighbourhood of Jati Umra. On the face of it, the industrialist-hunting) is being done under the garb of rules which, according to my information, are being followed by these businesses but the real story is that some under-the-surface move is going on to intimidate the industrialists and show them the door and expand the palaces at lower-than-the-market land prices’.
Following this communication, a little probe was conducted. It was revealed that SHO Raiwind City Operations, Lahore has, through a cop deputed for this purpose, summoned some agro-based industrialist neighbours of Jati Umra but that they are being ‘summoned’ for some wrong reason or any ugly motive, has not yet been proved. However, given Mian Nawaz Sharif’s and Mian Shahbaz Sharif’s repeatedly declared commitment to honest means and humanitarianism, one hopes that the functionaries will not be allowed to misuse the name of the Punjab chieftain and his elder brother what to talk of expansion of palaces through official machinery’s clout or even otherwise.
Published in The News, December 6th, 2011