Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif (right) and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (left) look on as Maryam Nawaz (center), daughter of jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, speaks during a press conference in Lahore on July 6, 2019. Photo: AFP / Arif Ali

The political turmoil in Pakistan is getting deeper and deeper every day. On Saturday, Maryam Nawaz, the de facto head of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, revealed a video of an Accountability Court judge who convicted her father Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia case. Maryam held a press conference in which she showed the leaked video and a transcript in which Accountability Judge Arshad Malik allegedly confessed to a friend that he had been pressured by the invisible forces to rule against Sharif.

In the video, Malik can be seen talking to his friend and saying that the invisible forces had a video of a highly personal nature and if it were ever leaked, he would not be able to sustain the pressure and might even commit suicide.

Malik can also be seen in the video appearing to confess that there was no evidence of money-laundering, corruption or receiving any kickbacks against Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, Hassan Nawaz, or Hussain Nawaz,  but he was forced to rule against Nawaz Sharif. According to the judge, he was taken to an unspecified location and shown a video of himself that was of an “immoral nature.”

Maryam did not stop there. She thundered that she had more pieces of evidence like this and if anyone from now on played a foul game she would reveal other videos as well. She was of course referring to the establishment when she said she did not want to fight with any institution. However, in reality, she has taken on the battle, and her press conference has raised some very serious questions on the already weak judicial ruling against Sharif that threw him out of office and disqualified him from politics for life.

The question now arises whether the Supreme Court of Pakistan will take any action and ask Malik who blackmailed him. Ideally in any civilized country a judge confessing about convicting an elected prime minister at the behest of invisible forces could result in the immediate reversal of that conviction, and could even topple the puppet regime of the establishment, but here in Pakistan this is least expected. After all, the judges of higher courts too may also have been blackmailed by the powerful establishment.

Such is the power of the deep state that soon after Maryam’s press conference, Malik’s house was surrounded by men in plain clothes and no one from the media was allowed to get his version of events. On Sunday a mysterious press release from Malik appeared in the media in which he stated that what he said in the video was quoted out of context and that he had undergone no pressure from the establishment to convict Sharif.

In any case, this video has raised serious questions on the credibility of the judiciary and the mindset of the establishment that is exploiting civil institutions to assert its authority. Sharif, though behind bars, stands victorious now, as this leaked video appears to have vindicated his claim that he was only punished for challenging the hegemony of the establishment.

It is not difficult to understand that the military establishment that staged an undeclared coup to throw Sharif out of office will eventually use every tactic to silence Maryam Nawaz now as she is proving dangerous for both the selected Prime Minister Imran Khan and the establishment itself. She is ready to address public gatherings and has already given an indication that she will reveal more secrets in the coming days.

Her press conference and the video proved that not even the judiciary can help someone in get justice if he or she falls under the wrath of the establishment. If an elected prime minister cannot get justice and the proceedings of the courts are manipulated by the invisible forces, then imagine how difficult it is for common people who voice dissent and are charged with fake cases. This is a mockery of the system, where the establishment prevails at the expense of all other institutions, and even the judges are pressured and blackmailed to give verdicts against the opponents of the deep state.

Now the question arises why Maryam or her party the PML-N did not take this video to the court and instead preferred to present it to the media. The answer is very simple: the PML-N knows that the judges of the superior courts too can be blackmailed, and because of the one-sided verdicts of ex-chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar against the PML-N, the judiciary has become a party to the current political game. So Maryam has played the smart card by revealing this video to the media, making it a point of debate in the whole country. The incumbent government led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has gone on the back foot and it lost its already weak credibility, as the confession of the judge in the video is solid evidence that Sharif was put behind bars so Imran Khan could win the last election.

Perhaps the deep state underestimated Maryam Nawaz’ ability to resist and rise against all the odds, and it now realizes that the PML-N under Maryam is more active and aggressive. Even if the deep state charges Maryam in another case, the damage already done through this video is beyond repair, and the deep state will need more fascist methods to keep this artificial political discourse intact.

This nerve-racking battle can go either way: the deep state with all the resources and power at its disposal could crush the PML-N and it could arrest Maryam Nawaz at any time; or Maryam against all the odds could outsmart the establishment by aggressively countering each and every move of the deep state. But one thing is certain: Maryam Nawaz will be remembered as the first female leader of the anti-establishment movement in the pro-establishment province of Punjab. She has exposed the nexus of the deep state and judiciary, and that itself is an extraordinary achievement.

This video scandal has also exposed the dirty games being played by the deep state from behind the curtains to malign and undermine the elected leadership of the country. If the court judgments against Sharif were right and the general elections of last year were free and fair, the PTI government and the establishment would not have had to give explanations after explanations that there was nothing wrong in the verdicts against Sharif and that the polls were not rigged. After all, it is no longer a mystery now, and this video scandal has revealed evidence that injustice has been done not only to Sharif but also to the masses, that his convictions before the election amounted to intentional rigging of the ballot. 

Montesquieu once said, “There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice.” It is evident that military establishment has put Pakistan into political and economic turmoil, and that by denying Sharif justice and thereby rigging the ballot it has destroyed the credibility of the judiciary and the Election Commission.

It is time for the deep state to take a back seat, as those who do not learn from history are taught painful lessons time and again.

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