The ouster of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has invoked mixed reactions within the country and outside. While most of the experts have hailed the Pakistan Supreme Court judgment in the Panama Papers case, many others have argued that the apex court set a “dangerous precedent” by throwing Sharif out of power. The SC verdict cut-short Sharif government’s tenure and also hurt his party’s chances in the next National Assembly elections in 2018. However, several experts are of the opinion that ouster of Sharif is wrong as it will strengthen the Islamabad’s dubious establishment comprising of military elites, who work behind the scene and trample democracy at will.
In a Bloomberg article, Mihir Sharma writes Sharif’s ouster was on the expected lines. No Prime Minister has been able to complete their full term in the last 70 years. “They’ve been fired by governor-generals and army chiefs and judges. So it was always fruitless, I expect, to hope that Nawaz Sharif, elected with a massive mandate in 2013, would become the first.”
Even as the headlines hail the verdict against corruption, Sharma writes, “In fact, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Sharif was dismissed because, as with the others, a secretive military “establishment” decided to fire him. That’s bad news for Pakistan; again, a democratic mandate appears to have been shown to be of no account when compared to the wishes of the army. Nor is it good news for Pakistan’s neighbors — or the West.”
The New York Times argues Pakistan Supreme Court has set a “dangerous precedent.” Sharif was removed not for doing corruption as the PM but for hiding his illegal foreign assets accumulated in past, or not being “honest”.
Pakistan SC has a poor record of defending democracy against authoritarian interventions. “While there have been a handful of dissenting judges, the Supreme Court has legalized each one of Pakistan’s three successful military coups in 1958, 1977 and 1999 under the “doctrine of necessity,” Aqil Shah argues in the NYT.
It is being feared that the new PM after Sharif would cede more powers to the military. “The ousting of Nawaz Sharif as Pakistan’s prime minister by the court and the takeover of the position by his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif could hand more power to the country’s military establishment,” observes the Wall Street Journal.
Senior Indian journalist Barkha Dutt also believes that Sharif’s ouster is dangerous for Pakistan. Dutt recalls that in 2013 Sharif had told her something no Pakistani leader ever dared to express. “Civilian supremacy over the military is a must,” Sharif had told her, adding, “The prime minister is the boss, not the army chief. This is what the Constitution says. We all have to live within the four walls of the Constitution.”
According to Dutt, the Pakistan SC verdict has weakened the country’s democracy and allowed “its all-powerful army to grab power without having to formally seize it. ”
Pakistan’s Dawn reports that SC verdict against Sharif is a “ridiculously expensive accountability.” “The Supreme Court’s landmark decision to disqualify the prime minister has exposed the fragile and nascent democracy to a tough endurance test,” it says.
Quoting a second generation leader of a leading business family of Pakistan, it says the judgment has put at stake not only the career of politicians but the entire country. “Do you think the ongoing circus will end anytime soon on its own? I am not a great fan of our crop of leaders. At stake, however, is not just the career of politicians but the future of the country.”