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Panama Papers frenzy

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D Asghar
The problems that can be best described as non-issues are always on the forefront and debated vigorously. The media has been drumming up Panama Leaks case for over a year and not a day goes by that it falls from their radar. Imran Khan is given credit for persistently keeping the issue alive and turning the heat on the PM. However, the first family is to be blamed for mishandling the entire controversy from day one. With every passing day, they are making it harder for themselves. Did the national exchequer receive a single Swiss Franc, from the treasure trove hidden there? What honestly makes you think, that outcome of this Panama case will be able to enrich an ordinary person. Khan and his followers, our very ‘independent’ media and some dubious intellectuals, have been peddling this thing as ‘godsend’. Great emphasis is laid on the ‘biggest catch’ and the unfurling of the mask of the allegedly corrupt. When the scandal broke, the incumbents had two options, accept and resign gracefully or deny and defend vigorously. Call it fate, that incumbents chose the latter route. One was hoping, that they had so much convincing ammo in their arsenal, that it would take them out of this mess rather rapidly. But everyone knows what followed. What has followed ever since is historical in a sense that two parallel courts are in session. One is strictly for legal purposes and the other for political. The apex court has issued an order, which is going through its motions. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT), is probing the first family, to gather the missing pieces, for the honorable judges. People have gotten mind numbing arguments from the panelists and the brains have reached the level of information overload. By now, this entire case is the lifeline of this sorry nation. With due respect to the incumbents, they share the blame for this mania as well. They drummed up a lot of hyperbole and pegged this whole thing as a piece of cake. When you over complicate things, they tend to go out of hand. When you keep things simple, you can perhaps find a way out. Had the incumbents taken refuge under ‘time bar’, there would have been some backlash, but it would have been the safest bet on legal grounds. It is a well-recognised and accepted practice.The Sharif team made every effort to shoot itself in the foot, especially when they produced the infamous letter from a Qatari business associate. The elaborate defense that was crafted around the story of how the money traveled from one country to the other, how a factory was bought and sold and how the gains eventually became the source of London properties in question, is mind numbing to say the least. The story has a gaping hole from the get go. The brutal nationalisation by late Bhutto’s PPP government in the early seventies left the Sharif family with almost nothing. Yet the family was able to transfer money to Dubai and set up an industry in the early seventies, is where this whole thing becomes suspicious and doubtful. Needless to say, records and transactions for such transfers cannot be traced or presented, as the matter is over four decades old. The recent development in the Middle East, regarding Qatar is quite alarming and unfavorable. The Qatari Prince has declined to come to Pakistan to testify and has understandably more pressing matters to deal with. Even if the JIT, somehow makes it to Qatar, perhaps through Iran, it may not be able to question the royals due to the ongoing crisis. Assuming they are able to question him, any statement by the Prince, without any documentary evidence to corroborate, will be mere heresy.
The Prince himself, was not a Partner of Sharifs at any time. So with this piece of evidence discarded what other options are there?

Delaying tactics, distraction and doubt creation will be used endlessly. Efforts are underway in full force to accomplish that goal. WhatsApp call, the Nehal Hashmi outburst, the first son’s photo leak while waiting for the investigation, are all meant to create, as much doubt as possible. The idea is obfuscation and chances are it will be done to the nth degree. Even if the ultimate verdict of the apex court is unfavourable, the court of public opinion and perception is what the incumbents are after. Victim card will be played and every limit will be crossed to outdo the opponents. The opponents and their case is a subject for another day. This particular bout between two major political parties for the throne of Lahore will get uglier by the day. The rest of the country will remain hostage to the animosity of these two gladiators. Both of them have raised the stakes to that level, where even the outcome of this case will not mean the end of the game. It’s an obsession, a mania of sorts to fight till one of the players is eliminated forever. Let the rest of the country be damned.

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