Attempts to silence Ayesha Gulalai and Asma Jahangir expose Pakistan’s misogynist orientation
Following Ayesha Gulalai’s “revelations” about Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan, accusing him of sexual harassment, another outspoken Pakistani woman, well-known human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir, has challenged the Supreme Court and the Pakistani establishment on the conviction of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers case.
Gulalai has already been subjected to great abuse by Khan’s supporters—from attempts to malign her sister to threats to raze her residence—and may suffer even more grief given the country’s misogynist orientation. But Jahangir has weathered similar abuse throughout her illustrious career and has shown she cannot be cowed into submission—a fact she proved anew in a press conference on Thursday.
Pointing to the inclusion of the Military Intelligence (MI) and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that probed Sharif’s alleged corruption, she asked: “How would the judges feel if ISI and MI members were included in the Supreme Judicial Council?” She accused the Supreme Court of being influenced by the security establishment currently at odds with Nawaz Sharif after the “Dawn leaks” affair and pointed out that the “announced judgment disqualified Sharif without the victim having the right of appeal normal in cases of fundamental rights under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.”
She also brought up the well-known objection to the Supreme Court taking on any case directly, as the top court’s verdict can only be “reviewed” and not appealed by the “aggrieved party.” Jahangir also objected to one judge calling the prime minister a “godfather,” linking him to Italian criminal gangs, even as another judge added the clarifying epithet of “Sicilian Mafia” to really drive home the point.
The verdict unseating Sharif finally relied on a marginal finding involving non-declaration of approximately Rs. 5,000 in his tax returns—a sum that he never even received. She said that if Nawaz Sharif were as powerful as the mafia, it wouldn’t have been so easy to dismiss him from power three times.
Tragically, Pakistan is so politically polarized at the moment that these two voices have, and will continue to, attract shameful abuse from partisan voices on TV and social media. Given these conditions, the future promises to be tumultuous rather than serene after “justice is done.”