The Charter of Defense against Accountability

Pakistan’s former president, and co-chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party, Asif Zardari and the three times former prime minister and perpetual president of the eponymous faction of the Pakistan Muslim League, Mian Nawaz Sharif are on video-link to discuss the situation they and their parties’ leaders are going through since the August 2018 National Accountability Bureau (NAB) drive.

Nawaz Sharif has in front of him a still untouched tall glass of lassi, and Zardari can’t stop puffing on cigarette after cigarette.

Zardari starts talking, “My brother Nawaz some eighteen years ago, you and your sister, Benazir crafted and signed the Charter of Democracy in London. Today, not only Benazir is no more, but also our government is gone. The skies are getting darker every passing moment.

“You must have heard it that now even my child, Bilawal has been called by NAB.”

Nawaz interjects, “Yes, my brother Asif, not only both of us but also NAB is targeting our children. First they locked up my little brother [leader of the opposition in the National Assembly] Shahbaz [Sharif], and then they came for his sons, Hamza and Salman. Thank God, Salman was able to escape to London. I would say that before they go after your daughters, you should send them to London, or better to your countryside chateau in France. It must be as good as your Bilawal houses because I heard that it was built for a wife of King Philippe VI. Young people like the countryside.”

Zardari offers, “Thank you Mian Sahib, indeed it is a good idea. They will be better off there, away from the public eye in the Normandy countryside. This NAB is gone crazy… indeed cruel. Now tell me that they did not even spare an innocent child, my Bilawal.

“What did I say just now… first they were going after the poor whom I gave momentary joys with their bank accounts, now they are after our servants. The latest is that my sister Faryal’s driver Hamid Samoon is being sought because he has property worth Rs. 650 million in Dubai. Thankfully, he escaped overseas.”

Nawaz, his glass of lassi, still untouched, continues, “My brother Asif, they are stifling our right to seek proper rewards for our public service and misleading the public. Did you hear that Imran’s law minister Farogh Naseem saying that out of all the cases being investigated by NAB, only one per cent belonged to politicians and 99 percent to other people? [Sighing] my brother Nawaz, this ‘other’ people are the ones who are loyal to you and me, people like [Omni Group chairman] Anwar Majeed and his son, Abdul Ghani … [Summit Bank chairman] Hussain Lawai… These residents of Sindh have been moved to Islamabad for interrogation.”

Nawaz, offering his words of consolation, says, “Yes, I know. We too are in the same cauldron. Our Khawaja Saad Rafique, who is also facing a NAB case, told me that NAB is torturing people to tell what all we did… there is no sense of privacy. So, our

Rana Sanaullah has asked for forming a parliamentary committee that will visit the NAB office to see the torture tools it is using.”

Zardari interjects, “Our Naveed Qamar also raised the issue of NAB’s torture chambers and the use of inhuman ways of investigations against our people.

“Imran party is also working to drive a wedge between us. His [finance minister] Asad Umar, defending Imran’s mention of U-turn, brought up this very old statement by Shahbaz that he promised the nation that he would hang Asif Ali Zardari in a public square. On top of that Asad added that Shahbaz has backed out of it and restored friendly ties with you. My brother Asif, we are always together. You know young people. Shahbaz may have said something in a rush.”

Zardari offers, “I have no complaints. In this hour, we stand together. Imran is pulling the rungs from under our feet. Our immortal leader and martyr, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto has given us a perpetual slogan, roti, kapra, aur makan [food, clothing and shelter]… it never fails… it has worked for us since our great leader uttered these words. But now you see what Imran is doing, not only, he is building homeless shelters but pending that he has set up tents, and providing room and board for those lying in the open.

“He cannot dare put up a single tent in Sindh. We have to keep people hoping for our slogan to materialize here.”

Nawaz quickly interjects, “My dear brother, this is terrible. It is a copyright issue … intellectual property issue… He has stolen the slogan of the immortal leader.

“I am not in the parliament but you are there… even Shahbaz is under custody… Bilawal is there… both of you must object to it and get these tents taken down… this free room and board must end… this is not the way to do politics. Imran is spoiling the people. The next time, people hear our slogan, they will start saying, ‘Imran… Imran…

“My dear brother Asif, we need a new charter, the Charter of Defense against Accountability.”

Zardari rests his lighted cigarette on the mound of ashes, and declares, “Definitely! We are signing the Charter of Defense against Accountability.”

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