It was expected that after playing with the fire Sharif and his daughter will pay the cost and much to the expectations both are convicted in the decision of accountability court in the Avenfield property case. The Accountability Court Judge Muhamad Bashir awarded 10 years prison to Sharif and 7 years term to Maryam while Captain (rtd) Safdar was given 1-year prison. It did not come as a surprise as the legal and journalist fraternity were expecting the decision against Sharif, his daughter and his son in law.
It is not the first time that the dissenting politician has been awarded prison on charges of corruption, in fact our history actually tells us that only the politicians are the victim and the others are angels who in spite of the crimes like validating the unconstitutional steps are considered innocents.
In fact for the very first time, the onus of the proof has been shifted to the accused instead of the prosecution. The decision is based on the accused inability to prove his innocence rather than prosecution proving their stance. It actually is a very weak verdict and from now on as per the decision, the accused in the course will have to prove their innocence. Other than the legal lacunae it is a sad tale as far as the democracy is concerned.
From Khawaja Nazimudin to Bhutto and from Benazir to Nawaz Sharif it is the same story and a known script. Create a hype through media that politicians are responsible for the very ill and after creating the perception against the politicians, dismantle the political parties and launch the new puppets. It has been a blind journey of traveling again and again in the round circles and maintaining the monopoly and hegemony over the policies and financial resources for the invisible force.
Since Nawaz and his daughter Maryam have been challenging the hegemony and authority of the invisible forces, to teach them the lesson was a must. So whats next now, Sharif has been removed and Maryam Nawaz been disqualified even before launched as the political heir of Sharif? Maybe a clean sweep for Imran Khan and the independents fighting on the electoral symbol of Jeep. But is it that easy? A political party like PML-N who actually enjoys grass root level support can be routed and dismantled merely by using the courts?
In the short term, it can benefit the invisible forces and it will be enough for them to get the desired results, but that does not mean that it will be a happy ending. If Sharif decides to return along with his daughter, the PML-N will become the symbol of resistance against the forces. In fact, it is an opportunity for Sharif and his daughter to emerge as a clan like Bhutto who is considered the symbol of anti-establishment politics.
But then it is all up to Sharif, whether he is seriously fighting for a status quo change in Pakistan or not? Every threat presents an opportunity and if Sharif decides to continue this journey, he may have to face the temporary difficulties but he surely will emerge much stronger than ever after a year or two.
The inexperienced Imran Khan cannot run the affairs merely on the support of the ventilator provided by the boys in Rawalpindi. We have seen that the parties like PTI were launched in the past as well in the form of PML-Q and Muslim League Abdul Qayum, but as soon the ventilator of the invisible forces has removed those parties perished from the scene.
Many of the analysts who believe that the PML-N vote bank will be damaged by this decision are not aware of the ground realities and the psyche of the voters of PML-N. The Avenfield judgment will not dent the vote of the party, as its supporters already are convinced that their leaders and party is being victimized through the courts. However, it will certainly strengthen the anti-Sharif narrative and it will perhaps force Sharif to extend his self-imposed exile in London. Sharif’s absence from the election campaign will leave the ground open for the PTI in Punjab, and it will swing the momentum in favor of PTI.
It is a test of nerves for Sharif and his daughter now, whether they can face the inevitable by coming back to the country and go behind bars or will they choose to remain in the comfort of London will determine the future of PML-N in General Elections and in the domestic politics as well.
If Sharif and his daughter chose to come back to the country and they are sent behind bars, PML-N can win a huge sympathy vote bank as a result. In case Sharif and his daughter chose to stay in London, then it will be a game over for PML-N.
The voters will choose to sit at home instead of voting for the PML-N, the groups and Baradaris who play vital role in each constituency of Punjab in the winning or losing of a candidate and party will definitely not go with a party whose leadership is out of the country, and it will definitely benefit the Imran Khan-led PTI.
Sharif has already wasted the time by staying in London when his party ticket holders were pressurized and forced to change the loyalties. It was the time when Sharif should have been in the country taking care of his candidates. Politics has no heart and it never recognizes human emotions, tragedies, and illness. Sharif may have lost the case in the court, but he still has the chance to prove his narrative of victimization right by coming back to the country and winning his party in the elections from behind the bars. On the other hand Imran Khan's PTI along with the independent candidates fighting elections on the symbol of Jeep will sweep the elections in Punjab in case of Sharif’s absence and PML-N under the leadership of Shahbaz Sharif will not be able to run an effective election campaign and it will be restricted to 30 to 40 National Assembly seats only.
The response from Shahbaz Sharif on the Avenfield verdict was also a set back for PML-N, as Shahbaz in a presser showed negative body gestures and his choice of words made it clear that he is still not willing to stand with the narrative of his elder brother. It may be a good cop and bad cop ploy and Shahbaz may be playing a good cop role, but this strategy will not going to benefit PML-N both in the short and long run. The presence of Sharif and his daughter Maryam, even from behind the bars can swing a little bit of momentum back to PML-N and it can result in a swing of neutral votes in party's favor, but for that to happen Sharif and Maryam both need to come back to the country as soon as possible.
As far as the justice is considered, it seems that it is blind when it comes to the corruption of invisible ones, the real property tycoons, and the judiciary itself. This time it does not seem to work for a long time period as the masses in Punjab are not buying the old script.
So, the Game is not over for the PML-N in the long run, in fact, Sharif and Maryam's return can give a fresh start to the party and it can evolve its narrative as an ideological political party who truly poses a great threat to the hegemony of the invisible forces by pinning all its hopes of coming in to power on masses.