Easternisation of the world

Daily: Pakistan Today
Date: 19.03.17

The term easternisation can be understood as a phenomenon embodying the economic
rise of the countries in the east. A few centuries ago, especially in the wake of Vasco da
Gama’s effort to discover a sea route from Europe to India in 1498, the economic potential
of Asia beckoned Europeans who vied with one another for gaining a foothold on Asian
lands to monopolise raw material to feed European industrial complexes.

After the Second World War, Asia took over the reins of destiny. Japan was the first to
express its economic prosperity, followed by the second wave of opulence launched by
South East Asian countries named Asian Tigers. Both these waves espoused capitalist
policies under the auspices of the US military hegemony in the region. Nevertheless, in the
1990s, China initiated the third wave of economic sufficiency, which India joined quickly.
Generally, not only did the expansion-cum-diversification of local industry based mostly on
raw material, but also the shifting of multi-national companies to Asia in search of cheap
labour contributed significantly to the economic surge of Asia. The growth of the software
industry offered an additional benefit to all to utilise human potential contributing to Asia’s
economy.

The implied idea in easternisation begrudged by many is that it is happening at the
expense of the west or westernisation. In this regard, Gideon Rachman’s book,
Easternisation: War and Peace in the Asian Century,” published by Penguin Random
House in 2016, says that easternisation not only reflects the dwindling significance of
European countries but it also reflects their burgeoning troubles ravaging various spheres
of life. To put this point across, Rachman writes on page 167: “The process of
Easternisation means not just that Europe no longer controls large swathes of the globe.
That has been the case for decades. It also means that Europe is increasingly vulnerable
to political, social and economic trends in the rest of the world that it cannot control – but
which pose direct and indirect threats to European stability, prosperity and even peace.”
That is, today’s Europe is beset with a two-pronged challenge: first, the loss of political clout
to reframe its calling in resource-rich areas of the world; and second, to devise a way to
stop the inflow of troubles affecting various spheres of European life. Unfortunately, when
extant, both these challenges reinforce each other.

In 1956, when the US ended the hegemony of two European powers, the UK and France,
on the issue of the Suez Canal, Europe started shrinking into its fold. In this way, the
primary challenge to the west or westernisation came from the west itself. Years afterwards,
the economic crisis that visited Europe in 2009 debunked the reality that European
authority over the world was moribund. In this regard, Rachman writes on page 167: “By
2009, when an economic crisis erupted in Europe, the age of European imperialism in Asia
and elsewhere had been over for roughly half a century…[M]ore and more economists are
giving voice to the idea that competition with low-cost producers in Asia, in particular in
China, has contributed to the European economic malaise.” In fact, Chinese cheap
industrial products undermined the residual monopoly of European manufacturing
industries and funnelled European money into the Chinese economy.

Whereas the year of 2009 can be considered the time when the existence of easternisation
became noticeable, the realisation got itself reified into more palpable results in 2014, when
China spearheading the phenomenon of easternisation surpassed the US. In this regard,
Rachman writes on page 6: “A symbolic moment was reached in 2014 when the IMF
[International Monetary Fund] announced that, measured in terms of purchasing power,
China was the world’s largest economy”. Similarly, Rachman writes on page 8: “By 2014,
China was already the world’s leading manufacturer and its largest exporter. China was
also the biggest export market for forty-three countries in the world; whereas the US was
the biggest market for just thirty-two countries. (Twenty year earlier, China had been the
largest market for just two countries in the world, and the US was number one for forty-four
nations).” In this way, in 2014, the world finally recognised the presence of easternisation.
In the post-2014 era, the world is supposed to be stretched between retiring westernisation
and mounting easternisation, whether the two phenomena are coterminous or not.

The economic challenge posed by easternisation is just one dimension of the issue. There
are two other dimensions. First, economic sufficiency cannot be seen in isolation from
political adequacy. In this regard, Rachman writes on page 6: “It is economic might that
allows nations to generate the military, diplomatic and technological resources that
translate into international political power.” Second, like westernisation, easternisation is
non-sparing in asserting its history, values and practices. In this regard, Rachman writes on
page 29: “Yet while attitudes to the West vary across Asia – between countries and
individuals – there is little doubt that a widespread process of Easternisation is underway,
as Asian nations reassert their own histories and heritages, and scrape away some of the
accumulations of Westernisation.” In fact, losing grip over economic and political affairs of
the world and getting vulnerable to crises of various types express the worst fear of Europe.

Whereas China is heading the post-2009 wave of easternisation, the US has been trying to
challenge China in the Pacific by developing a pivot to Asia since 2011 with the help of
Japan and India. The cases of Japan and India are different. Japan experienced the
humiliation of defeat at the hands of the US and later developed its economy on capitalist
lines under the supervision of US military. This relationship is more a patron-client one than
a partnership of equality and respect. On the other hand, the bonhomie that thrived
between the US and India is a post-1998 phenomenon, which expressed itself in October
2008 by signing the 123 Nuclear Energy Agreement. It is still difficult to say if India – which
is also part of easternisation – is ready for being an active frontline partner of the US in the
pivot to Asia plunge.

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High handedness of the Higher Judiciary

Daily: Pakistan Today
Date: 15.11.17

If anything were declared the bane of Pakistan, it would be the yearning for populism by
non-elected institutions including the Supreme Court (SC). What was not apparent in the
July 28 judgment is now clear in the review judgement of November 7 on the Panama
Papers case, both being public documents now. The SC rejected the review petition filed by
former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Through the review judgement, the SC once again
assumed the authority of interpreting the law in its own desired way.

In the review judgement of November 7, there are two disquieting contradictions to notice.
First, on the one hand, the review judgement says that “Nawaz Sharif has been neck deep
in business and politics ever since early 80s’ so it is unbelievable that he did not
understand the simple principle of accounting that his accrued and accumulated salary of
six and a half years was his asset and liability of the company he was an employee of.”
Here the SC acknowledges that it applied the principle of accounting on Sharif’s case.
However, on the other hand, the review judgement says that “The judges also ruled that the
bench … accepted whatever he [Nawaz Sharif] stated about the work permit, his
employment contract with Capital FZE Jabal Ali, his position as chairman of the company's
board and his entitlement to salary which according to him was not withdrawn.” Here, the
SC acknowledges that the case of Nawaz was of a salaried employee and not of a company.

It is known that “asset” can be defined in two ways: first, for income tax (employee)
purposes; and second, for accounts (employer) purposes. It is also known that “asset”
sprouting from “salary” can be defined in only one way: for income tax (employee)
purposes. When Sharif was a salaried employee of a company, as acknowledged by the SC
itself, the accounting principle meant for a company was not applicable to him. The SC has
again failed to understand a simple point that, under the Representation of the People Act
(ROPA) 1976, the nomination papers required from all candidates to declare their income,
and assets and liabilities, for last three tax years, in an annexure (which is a tax record),
were as per the Income Tax Ordinance 2001, and not as per any accounts principle. In the
elections, not companies but individual taxpayers take part. The annexure section of the
ROPA refers the candidates to the Income Tax Ordinance of 2001 and not to any accounts
principle or procedure. The SC could have overlooked the Income Tax Ordinance 2001 if
the Ordinance were devoid of requisite definitions. However, this was not the case. The
Ordinance had been meeting the needs of the Election Commission and the ROPA, and
this is how Nawaz Sharif did not lie on oath about his asset declaration to violate the terms
of Section 12 (2) (f) of the ROPA. Instead, he followed the prevalent law.

It is obvious now that, and as shown in the afore-quoted sentences, the SC considered
Nawaz Sharif’s case under the accounts principle. However, the SC has not given the
reason for relying on the ROPA to judge a candidate under the accountancy procedure
and not under the Income Tax Ordinance 2001. In this regard, in its review judgement, the
SC has cited no legal provision allowing it to do so. Similarly, the SC has cited no case law,
local or foreign, as a precedent. Interestingly, when the SC says, “The facts about
disqualification of Nawaz Sharif as prime minister were uncontroversial,” the SC fails to rely
on any unassailable proof other than definitions inaccurately selected to serve the intent to
disqualify him and by inexactly declaring certain statements as his confession statements. If
law were so difficult to interpret and understand! Hence, when the SC says in the review
judgement, “It was salary of the past six and a half years which had already accrued and
accumulated. There is nothing in oral or written form, from July 2006 to January 2013 as
could stop the accrual and accumulation of salary or prevent it from becoming an asset,”
the Income Tax Ordinance 2001 contravenes this stance. Section 13 of the Ordinance says
that no receivable salary falls into the ambit of accountancy and that no receivable salary is
an asset whether it is confessed by anyone or not. The SC needs to read Section 13 (and
the Income Tax Ordinance) once again.

The second contradiction is that, on the one hand, in the review judgement, the SC says,
“The mere fact that we did not agree with the petitioner when he stated that his
unwithdrawn salary is not an asset would not amount to denial of a fair chance to vindicate
his position.” That is, Nawaz Sharif was given a chance of fair trial. However, on the other
hand, the SC says, “[T]he honourable Court points out that this is not the first time that an
elected member has been disqualified, without a trial, in exercise of Article 184 (3) powers.”
This is where the SC has acknowledged and justified denial of a trial to Nawaz Sharif
despite the fact that the nature of the three cases quoted by the SC as precedents of
‘without a trial’ are entirely different from the case of Nawaz Sharif. Interestingly, here the
SC was quick to provide precedents but not when asked about declaring receivable salary
an asset. Nevertheless, the SC is saying that once wrong is committed, it can be
generalized to anyone. Unfortunately, instead of discouraging the practice of punishing
‘without a trial,’ the SC has solidified the practice. This is how the SC has assumed the
posture of absolute in authority and this is how the SC has become a source of disruption
in society. A politician elected by people has been dislodged without a trial is a serious
offence committed by the SC.

Generally speaking, the review judgement is replete with contents more political than legal.
The judgement should have been speaking legally and not politically. In fact, through the
review judgement, the SC jumped into politics by saying “the ousted prime minister tried to
fool the court and people, both inside and outside of Parliament, and never came up before
the court with the whole truth”. Interestingly, what was happening inside the SC was being
reported by the media and was known publicly including the WhatsApp saga of the trail.
However, it is not known what authority the SC exercised and what measure the SC used to
fathom whether or not the ousted prime minister was befooling people. This statement is
the second one making the SC a source of disruption in society. None asked the SC
whether or not Nawaz Sharif fooled people. The prerogative to judge whether Sharif fooled
people or not lies with people and not with the SC. In fact, the SC cannot pass this
judgement. It is the prerogative of people to judge a politician. The SC has tried to infringe
upon the rights of people to judge and has tried to impose its thinking on people.

In short, a much higher level of intellect and understanding of law was expected from the
SC but it could not meet the expectations. Further, the higher judiciary, which was
supposed to hold high legal and judicial ethos personified in its legal judgement, has failed
to convince any avid reader of law of the soundness of the judgements, both July 28 and
November 7.

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