Both Nawaz Sharif and Jahangir Tareen are undeniably ‘mammoth political entities’. However, the dissimilarities in their characteristics are manifest. Accountability must be across the board, but the media’s viciously synonymous treatment of ‘both entities’, since being disqualified under Article 62(1)(F), is an unfair presumption which will be robustly rebutted through an in-depth and holistic comparative analysis.
The comparison stems from the fact that two petitions against Imran Khan and Jahangir Tareen were decided on the same date and political pundits in the media quickly labelled it as a ‘balancing act by the judiciary’ ie sacrificing Tareen for Khan equalising Sharif’s disqualification. This illogical analysis suggests that the Supreme Court is adjudicating with pre-mediated political intent rather than on merits, which is ludicrous and incorrect. The judiciary is simply on a mission to act as guardian of the constitution by stringently exerting its constitutional power of judicial review.
Legally, Tareen’s trial hinged upon intricate law(s) of trusts. He satisfactorily answered all questions posed about accumulation of assets beyond means, gave full documentary proof of his total wealth and tax paid on it, produced actual bank statements evidencing that his declared/taxed income was sent with State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) approval to fund the trust which bought Hyde House (Sharif could not produce money trial, source(s) of earning, proper taxation records or SBP’s record of money transfer abroad). The actual trust deed was produced (unlike the fabricated Calibri font document produced by Nawaz Sharif). Thus, Jahangir Tareen is noticeably irked by the (ill-fated) comparison as he did not rely on a ‘Qatari letter’ to explain his source of income rather gave a legitimate explanation. He lost on a technicality — the Supreme Court felt that he had made a misstatement in his nomination papers when declaring his assets as he did not declare his ‘beneficial interest’ in Hyde House, although share of each child in the trust had been disclosed in their wealth statement(s) ever since the trust was established, amounting to full disclosure to tax authorities by actual beneficiaries in Pakistan. On balance of probabilities, Tareen has a strong case for review. With the whole executive machinery out to get him, his pivotal legal mistake is seemingly procedural not one of substantive law (unlike hiding an Iqama). He faces no consequential National Accountability Bureau (NAB) proceedings; Nawaz has already exhausted his review option and awaits NAB verdicts. The burden of proof is easier dispelled when sitting pretty in the incumbent government. Come opposition, it will get worse as Nawaz faces further scrutiny.
Both individuals are extraordinarily blessed financially, but that is where the similarities end. Jahangir Tareen was wealthy before the onset of his serious political career whereas Nawaz has used his political power to foster his exponential financial growth. Running the government like a family business, his family-unit ventured into numerous businesses, creating monopolies through misuse of influence
Both entities function at divergent political wavelengths. Nawaz Sharif is the undisputed supreme-leader of Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N), controls the federal government and Punjab, and is the only Pakistani to have thrice served as the Prime Minister. Jahangir Tareen is a close aide and confidant of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, was the General Secretary of PTI, and its financial backbone. Politically, being showered with votes over decades Nawaz has a much greater answerability to Pakistanis than Tareen has. In political philosophy, proximity to power is paramount to political projection, and Nawaz rules like a monarch. Nepotism being his norm, his daughter stands established as his successor, is always seen by his side, enjoys portfolios and chairs executive meetings, always having access to vast governmental funds. Constituency politics aside, Jahangir Tareen has never promoted his children to senior positions in PTI using his clout. His son was not elevated as General Secretary of PTI in his absence. Furthermore, Sharif’s corruption was exposed internationally by ICIJ journalists in the panama leaks. On the other hand, Tareen’s case was a reactionary step initiated by PML-N. In terms of vertical accountability, Tareen is answerable and must conform to Imran Khan’s political ideology. Contrarily, Nawaz Sharif is at the top of the hierarchy, not answerable to anyone, eyes even his brother Shahbaz Sharif with suspicion (turning him into a circumvented ceremonial head of PML-N) and senior leaders like Chaudhry Nisar stand marginalised for daring to question the ‘king’. Jahangir Tareen must also measure up-to the excessively high standards of PTI’s die-hard ideological Insafian moral brigade while Nawaz’s army of yes-men stroke his despotic ego by making hilarious leadership comparisons with Quaid-e-Azam.
Constitutionally, Nawaz Sharif once tried to amend the constitution to become ‘Ameer-ul-Momineen’. Constitutional law serves public interest not individuals, but for Nawaz the constitution exists to serve him. Contemporary agenda is to win General Elections 2018 and amend the constitution, enabling him to serve a fourth term as PM and curtail the powers of institutions subjugating them. Being a constitutional expert, I stand appalled at the audacity of the three-time prime minister to try and make fools of the simpletons in Pakistan, make a mockery of the constitution and misrepresent the parliament as sovereign over a written constitution. Jahangir Tareen has never been accused of unconstitutional behaviour.
Democratically, Jahangir Tareen never indulged in corrupt democratic practices nor took money to dismantle civilian democratic governments unlike Nawaz Sharif has as showcased in the formation of Islami Jumhoori Ittehad (IJI), highlighted in the Asghar Khan case.
Financially, both entities are extraordinarily blessed, but that is where the similarity extinguishes. Jahangir Tareen was wealthy before the onset of his serious political career whereas Nawaz has used his political grabs to foster his exponential financial growth. Running the government like a family business, his family-unit ventured into manifold businesses, creating monopolies through misuse of influence. Contrarily, Tareen’s JDW Sugar Mill kept providing farmers with support sugar price throughout difficult times. Nawaz Sharif does not care for the law of conflict of interests, rather misuses the executive branch to extract money, exemplified by the Ahad Cheema corruption scandal, Ishaq Dar’s affidavits (Hudaibiya Case), the Supreme Court’s removable of his kitchen cabinet in lieu of 62(1)(f) and corruption charges. PTI formed government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2013. Even with his over-arching influence, there has been no corruption scandal related to Jahangir Tareen and Nawaz only pays a fraction of the tax paid by the PTI leader.
Nawaz Sharif’s reaction upon his ouster is a declaration of war against the state apparatus. The instigator is fighting his legal battle politically, colliding with institutions, resorting to mutinous sloganeering, polarising Pakistan through chants of ‘mujhay kiun nikala’ (why was I removed?) and ‘khalai makhlooq’ (establishment) vs ‘Zameeni makhlooq’ (electorate), rather than settling it in the court. He daily maligns the judiciary, NAB and establishment, and with the recent shocking ‘Mumbai attacks acceptance fiasco’ blatantly compromised the ‘national interest’ and image of Pakistan for self-preservation. Skeptics are interpreting his childish tantrum as serving foreign geostrategic designs by endorsing the enemy’s narrative against Pakistan. His disservice to the nation will have long term diplomatic and economic repercussions. However, Nawaz in an all-or-nothing bid to dodge accountability proceedings is trying to rattle and embarrass the establishment. Jahangir Tareen’s ‘person specific battles’ have never cost Pakistan in the national/international realm.
Distinguishably, Tareen has continued supporting PTI maturely, accommodating the circumstances. He did not agitate against state institutions, has been graceful yet resilient in defeat and not ushered an insidious word in public rallies against the judiciary. Upon being questioned by accountability mechanisms, he did not take it personally, belittle or politicise institutions, build polarising narratives or conspiracy theories, willingly scar the image of Pakistan, undermine the whole process of accountability by crying foul, declaring it a witch-hunt and bring the democratic process to the brink of derailment for self-interest. He succumbed to the rule of law, filed a review petition and stepped down as General Secretary of PTI. Opponents only highlight his case for political mudslinging. Therefore, consequences, stakes and costs for Pakistan of ‘harbouring both entities’ is clearly antonymous. Jahangir Tareen just lost a case in court on technical grounds. So just stop comparing him to the treasonous Nawaz Sharif.
The writer is an LLM from Queen Mary University of London as a Chevening scholar. He studied political philosophy at University of Oxford, is a practising attorney and lecturer for the University of London (LLB) International Programme.