LAHORE - It may be just a coincidence but it has raised many an eyebrow that only a day after the passage of a constitutional amendment by the PPP-dominated upper house of the bicameral legislature for the revival of military courts, two important decisions have come in favour of Dr Asim Hussain, a close aide to former president Asif Ali Zardari, in cases in which two federal institutions are a party.

In a reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on allegations that the former petroleum minister caused the state exchequer a loss of Rs462.5 billion between 2010 and 2013 — Rs450b through a fertiliser scam, Rs9.5b through land fraud and Rs3b through money laundering - the Sindh High Court granted him bail on ‘medical grounds’.

The same day an anti-terrorism court issued a release order for him in a case relating to the alleged treatment of terrorists at his hospital. Rangers had accused Dr Asim of treating and harbouring suspected terrorists, militants and gangsters at the North Nazimabad and Clifton branches of his hospital at the behest of some political leaders.

Dr Asim was arrested in August 2015 by Rangers and after three months in preventive detention, the paramilitary force handed him over to police. NAB was handed his custody in December 2015 to initiate a graft investigation.

Model Ayyan Ali, who was arrested after she was trying to take more than half a million dollars out of Pakistan, was also given a similar relief in the recent past. Many allege that she worked for the PPP leadership and it was for this reason that even a former governor and attorney-general personally argued her case in the court.

PPP leader Sharjeel Memon, who was accused of misappropriating billions of rupees, has also returned to Pakistan after a two-year stay abroad, apparently because he doesn’t see any threat of being arrested in the changed political climate.

Many allege that the P ML-N and the PPP are, and will remain, allies, notwithstanding their vociferous utterances to the contrary. They have a common rival in the PTI and want to defeat it at any cost.

Their agenda against corruption is also similar. Both claim to have ‘zero tolerance’ for corruption.

It was for this reason that the PML-N said many a time that they would recover the ‘looted’ national wealth from Mr Zardari and even drag him on roads.

But so far when the PML-N government is left with only one year of its constitutionally mandated term and all parties are gradually preparing for next elections, no action has been taken against the former president, who was branded as ‘Mr 10 Percent’ by Rawalpindi’s Sheikh Rashid Ahmed. In fact, he has been cleared in various cases – and party leaders believe that nothing will be proved against him even in the reset of the cases against him.

The PML-N’s seriousness for action against the corrupt stood exposed the day the prime minister himself warned the NAB to stay in limits.

During a visit to Bahawalpur several months ago, the prime minister said the government would clip the wings of the anti-graft body if it did not behave. “The NAB is harassing government officers. They (bureaucrats) are afraid of taking decisions (signing of files of different projects) because of the NAB’s harassment. The NAB terrifies the government officers, hindering them from performing their duty.”

The warning brought the desired results and since then the NAB has not taken action against any person that may annoy the prime minister.

The PPP’s commitment against corruption is equally unflinching. In a TV interview a few days ago, Mr Zardari said: “How dare the National Accountability Bureau chief file a case against me? What position does he have?”

“They do injustice but forget it doesn’t take long for the time to change. They try their best but I don’t feel threatened,” he said.

He alleged that he was mistreated in the past and that a former Ehtesab Bureau chief (Saifur Rehman) had apologised to him for framing him in baseless cases.

As for the military courts that the two houses of parliament have decided to set up, the general impression is that they would not be as effective as these courts are expected to be. The only thing different from the civilian courts is that they would be headed by military men. Anybody arrested on terrorism charges will have to be produced before the court in 24 years and informed about the allegations. They will also be entitled to have lawyers of their choice.

The question is why the same functions cannot be performed by the existing civilian courts. It appears that the two parties have performed a ‘ritual’ just to satisfy the army, without actually giving these courts powers they exercise in emergency situation like the one Pakistan is passing through.