Monday, 24 April 2017

The Emperor Has No Clothes

On April 20th the Supreme Court of Pakistan delivered its verdict in the Panama Case. On Geo TV’s programme Report Card, Babar Sattar reacted to the judgment with these words:

I found this to be a quite reasonable overview. The judges had indeed ruled by a 3-2 split, 2 of them had indeed ordered to disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and 3 of them had indeed dismissed the PM’s story and ordered further probe. The word “ludicrous” was indeed used.

The sentiment among the common people is also expertly captured. Nobody ever viewed the Qatari prince story as anything more than a farce. Nor did anyone see any of the other twists in the Sharif’s tail as more than cheap little shams; that the flats were rented, that money was sent to Qatar by courier, that investments to the tune of millions of Dirhams were made in cash.

No one. Well. One person does come to mind. Baqir.. no.. Babar. Yes. Babar. Babar Sattar. That’s the name.

 Writing for The News on Nov 19, 2016 Babar Sattar did not find the story of the Qatari prince “ludicrous” at all. In fact, Mr Sattar argued that people make 12 million Dirham invests by camel courier “all the time”. I would invite April 20th Babar Sattar to read through one passage of Nov 19th Babar Sattar who actually found each part of the Sharif story very, very plausible.

Mr 19th Nov Babar Sattar also asserted that the Al Thani family was the previous owner of Park Lane flats, that the seller and buyer had the same story, that the Al Thani letter was an affidavit and that a document about Coomber Inc refutes allegations about Nielsen Inc. All of the above were untrue and even the judges pointed it out. Of course, 20th April Babar Sattar had known it all along.

I don’t say this as a jest; he really had known it all along.

The question is why does someone who, by his own admission, has known the truth all along, lie?

That the Sharifs owned the London properties has never been hidden from anyone, that they are criminals is not a disputed fact on the street. Their façade of legitimacy is the Emperor’s cloth; only the unworthy can't see. When the panama papers were leaked, the farce was called.

“But he hasn’t got anything on!”, spoke the child.

Nawaz Sharif played his part, the Emperor who knew he was laid bare but marched on regardless. His entourage too, the ministers and servants, held high the train that wasn’t there, even as the common people sneered.

The story never had characters like Sattar however. Or Feisal Naqvi and Salman Akram Raja, the two other legal eagles who covered themselves in glory during this episode. People who revel in the spotlight, who have the privilege of a voice, who vow to champion the “good” cause.  Then jump at the feet of the powerful, defending the abusers of a system they claim to protect.

It is plausible the cloth came from a Qatari prince, Sattar would argue. And in Qatar, as you know, all cloth is made invisible. Just because it’s not there doesn’t mean the cloth doesn’t exist, Naqvi could profess. Raja would just cover the Emperor’s ass with his face and yell nothing to see here.

A little crude? Maybe. They don’t quite fit into the story because they are real. Characters are created, and in the story they are given qualities that define their behaviour, control their actions. Pride makes the emperor carry on, the ministers lie to protect their dignity, the servants pretend to not see the truth out of fear, the child is innocent and the crowd have a vague idea of human decency.

In reality humans often don’t have those qualities, as these gents reveal. Not being bound by  any of these allows them to achieve a level of sycophancy that would look out of place, crude, even in a piece of fiction. They still get a message across though; sycophants will always be beside the emperor, clothes or sans clothes.

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