With Sharif’s Ouster, Pakistan Takes a Step Backward

from The Wall Street Journal,

Unlike most countries in South Asia, the Islamic republic won’t allow democracy to take root.

As Pakistan approaches the 70th anniversary of its founding next month, it just presented the world with an oddly familiar sight: a civilian prime minister dismissed before the end of his term. On Friday, the Supreme Court disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from his position for not meeting the constitutional requirement of being sadiq and ameen, Islamic terms that roughly translate as “truthful” and “trustworthy.” Mr. Sharif has announced that his younger brother, Punjab province Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, will be his successor. For Nawaz Sharif’s many foes, including those in the all-powerful army and its historical ally, the judiciary, the dismissal represents the triumph of rule of law over corruption in public life. Last year, the so-called Panama papers—leaked documents that focused on a shadowy law firm that provides financial services to some of the world’s ultrawealthy—revealed that three of Mr. Sharif’s children owned offshore assets that the prime minister hadn’t disclosed on a wealth statement. These included apartments in London’s upmarket Mayfair area.

Mr. Sharif hasn’t been convicted of corruption. The immediate grounds for his dismissal lie in not reporting income he allegedly received from a family firm in the United Arab Emirates. But in popular perception his dismissal is linked to the alleged corruption suggested by the Panama revelations. Mr. Sharif and his family strongly deny all such charges. Despite being cloaked in the rule of law, Mr. Sharif’s disqualification marks a setback for Pakistan’s shaky democracy. A tweet by the country’s former ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, summed up the problem: “Pakistan stays faithful to its 70-year tradition: No PM ever removed by voters; only by judges, generals, bureaucrats or assassins.”

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