The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and ordered the National Accountability Bureau to file corruption references against him and his family. Sharif’s third ouster from office will likely make waves for Pakistan that won’t be felt for months, or even years to come.
After a positive assessment of the economy under Nawaz Sharif by The Economist, Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, the predictions for a post-Sharif Pakistan are unlikely to be overly positive. Those who think corruption is the only obstacle in the normalization of the state of Pakistan might be in for a surprise. The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) will wilt under the populist backlash and will likely not score too well in the 2018 general elections, which will likely deliver a coalition government in a tied Parliament.
Most probably that coalition will be led by Imran Khan’s PTI after its encroachment into the PMLN’s bailiwick, Punjab. The “offended” anti-PMLN parties will join Imran Khan in the post-Nawaz cleansing of the stables, which will mean setting up inquiry commissions into various infrastructure projects launched by Sharif where “kickbacks” are suspected. The swagger of the Army might increase but Rawalpindi will not be dispassionate enough to stop the coalition from attacking the economy in the garb of a Bhutto-like campaign against the post-Ayub economy.
The Supreme Court for its part may bask in the adulation of temporary populism but Articles 62 and 63 will remain a part of the constitutional atavism of the state, especially as they are based on the two qualities of Islam’s Prophet as laid down in sharia. But they shouldn’t rest too easy. Given the negative publicity the judiciary will have to face in the coming days from brawling politicians, one lesson of the Panama Papers scandal that the legal fraternity should take to heart is to avoid politicized litigation.