Watching the prime minister, himself hanging on by the skin of his teeth, reduced to lining up ministers hounded out of their constituencies due to their poor performance and awarding them certificates was an epic act of desperation if there ever was one. The way it lit up social media is proof enough that this was a very weak—to some, lame—attempt at damage control. It’s rather being seen as a very frustrated Khan shooting back at his many critics by giving himself a medal. If only it were so easy to restore one’s credibility.
For, even as the government tries to create ever more noise about alleged corruption, accountability, and all that, the one thing that has been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt is that the ruling party has consistently lied about how it has pursued cases against the Sharif family in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, since the proof has come from the British legal system, which has proven to be the gold standard in international justice, the prime minister and his team cannot, for once, blame anything but its own prejudices for the humiliation it is suffering right now.
It is a shame that Shahzad Akbar is no longer in the country to explain who made state with a straight face that Shehbaz Sharif was not part of the investigation by the UK’s super anti-corruption force, the National Crime Agency (NCA), while it was all about him. Why, exactly had he claimed that Pakistan’s Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) was not in any sort of formal contact with the said agency, when it indeed had been. If he hadn’t fled the country in a hurry and hid himself in some corner far away, perhaps the press could have squeezed some comments out of him about the UK’s judiciary giving Shehbaz Sharif a clean chit after finding no proof whatsoever of any sort of financial wrongdoing, much less alleged money laundering on an epic scale across at least three countries.
Decisions from Pakistan’s courts, of late, have been upsetting the ruling party as well since they have started going against it. Here they have the freedom to point fingers at the judiciary itself, getting party spokespersons like Fawad Chaudhry to chastise the courts in press conferences. But they can do no such thing when it comes to British courts because their reputation has been beyond question for far longer than our country has existed. And for them to thoroughly investigate Shehbaz Sharif and his son, going back many years, and find the record spotless speaks for itself.
It has also been disclosed that officers of NAB flew from Lahore to London to help prepare British investigators for the case and offer any and all help whenever needed. That in itself exposes yet another lie about the government’s position in the matter, since they claimed that all investigations were carried out by the Brits on their own with no information or interaction with Pakistani authorities. Now, slowly, the people of Pakistan are beginning to see for themselves that the opposition’s claims about the government pursuing a single-minded campaign of political victimisation against prominent political leaders were true after all.
But this is not all that the government lied about. It’s also come to light over the last few days that the finance minister lied about his dealings with the IMF as well. He also said with a very straight face, just before the controversial mini-budget, that additional taxes, etc, would not place any burden whatsoever on the working classes and would target the super-rich only. He added that he had strongly rejected the Fund’s demands of placing more income tax on salaried classes and also hike electricity tariffs. Yet it turns out that when the finance minister made this bold claim the government had already agreed to increase both income tax and power tariffs in the next budget. Both things will make everyday life significantly more expensive for the common Pakistani.
Predictably, though, all this has made the ruling party only more belligerent. Now they use words like “dacoits” for most opposition politicians and “sellouts” for journalists that don’t toe their line anymore. But since you just can’t fool the people all the time, nobody’s buying their accusations about corruption, etc., because in more than three years they have not been able to prove even one rupee’s worth of corruption on the part of even one opposition politician. And people have also seen through their lies about the economy. And even more than high prices and low wages, they are infuriated by the fact that the government says it has made the common man’s life the best it has ever been in this country.
Scenes like the one witnessed in Faisalabad just the other day, when the PM’s special assistant Shahbaz Gill was jeered in public, and treated to very loud chants of sher—lion in Urdu, as it pertains to the PML(N)’s official symbol—are proof of growing public discontent with the ruling party and its unending lies. Yet it’s still just the tip of the iceberg. The sudden removal of Shahzad Akbar, the disqualification of Faisal Vawda (again, for lying), and the treatment of Gill are only the beginning of what is going to be a very powerful, and rather long domino effect.
And soon enough, it will be the people of Pakistan that will be calling this prime minister and his favourite aides “corrupt” and “dacoits”.