Democracy After Sharif in Pakistan

Caught Between the Military and the Courts

Courtesy Reuters

The 2016 Panama Papers leaks were supposed to be a tool for the forces of democracy. They were meant to expose corruption and reinvigorate institutions. By one reading, the resignation of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after the country’s Supreme Court declared him guilty in a corruption trial relating to the papers seems like a case in point. In fact, however, it shows that the leaks have become a tool of the anti-democratic in some instances. In Pakistan, the revelations came as the country was undergoing a return to full democracy. Now that process has been set back.

Part of the problem is the way Pakistan’s media handled the leaks. The country’s prominent outlets had long been censored and vilified by the military and powerful civilian politicians alike. Journalists who have spoken critically of the establishment have been attacked fiercely; for example, the journalist Hamid Mir, who was

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