Pakistan’s Politics of Witch-hunts needs to End

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There is a long history of the Pakistani state using – and abusing – corruption to target politicians and political parties. In most cases, these allegations are never proven but the damage caused to the country and the leaders is immense. This has come to light with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) withdrawing its case of alleged corruption in the LNG deal of 2015.

In a recent column in Dawn, Khurram Hussain undertakes an in-depth analysis of this case. “There was no corruption in the LNG deal. The integrity of honourable men was besmirched purely so that a vindictive politician — Imran Khan — could advance his politics. There was no merit in the case. It was a political witch-hunt.”

According to Hussain, “many of the co-accused came out of NAB questioning and told us they were being pressured to sign false affidavits against Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. During their questioning they were told if they signed affidavits implicating the former prime minister in allegations of corruption, they would be let off without a hitch. They refused because they knew the allegations to be false. In one case, one of those hauled up for questioning but not named as an accused in the interim charge sheet filed in December 2019, claimed he had been subjected to violence (electric shocks) in order to compel him to sign. He still refused.”

As Hussain notes, “the LNG case is probably the most high profile of all the politicised corruption cases filed during the PTI government’s rule. It implicated a former prime minister, and many others in a corruption case that eventually could not be proved. But the PTI social media machine was able to keep public anger boiling around the case by using a number of tactics that were designed to create suspicion around every decision made during the setting up of the LNG terminal in 2015. They argued the contract price was too high by first comparing it to prices in the spot market, and then to another contract they themselves signed in 2021. They argued no storage facilities were built with the terminal, so its full capacity could not be used. They argued the re-gasification tariff was too high.”

Hussain warns, “Imran Khan should apologise to the country for this politics of witch-hunts. Today, his minions are trying to argue that he had no say in any of this, that he was being used by the army. But this is a gross misrepresentation. The truth is he offered himself as a tool, and was himself vested in the LNG case. It is high time to shut the door on this politics of witch-hunts. We will get nowhere if this continues.”

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Author: Alia Khan