Thanks to his threateningly throaty voice, rustic accent and in-your-face comments, Khawaja Asif of the PML-N had often been forcing his opponents to act fidgety or blush with shame after taking the floor in the National Assembly of Pakistan, all through the decade of 1990s.

During the concluding moments of an otherwise yawn-inducing sitting Thursday, however, he sounded tamed. Sadistic hearts could easily feel tempted to take his speech like a passionate pleading for mercy. With deliberate restraint, Asif kept urging the government to “act big” and let his leader, Nawaz Sharif, go abroad to get treated.

The grave and cautious tone that Khawaja Asif had adopted to present his case Thursday, clearly conveyed that the PML-N was genuinely worried and feeling almost panicky regarding the fast deteriorating health of their leader. Most of its leaders are yet not willing to endorse the idea, however, that to ensure his quick departure, Nawaz Sharif should submit the “indemnity bond,” as demanded by the Imran Government.

The government seriously suspects that Nawaz Sharif does not intend to return, once he leaves the country. It continues to consider him a “sentenced criminal,” deserving no mercy.

After grudgingly acknowledging serious threats to his health, however, the government is now willing to let him go, but only if he or his brother submitted an “indemnity bond.”

The accumulated worth of the prescribed bond is equal to seven and a half billion Pak Rupees. The bond, ostensibly, is required to ensure that Nawaz Sharif returns to the country after getting himself appropriately diagnosed and treated, “within a month.” After returning, he goes back to jail to complete the term, the Accountability Court had announced after dealing with the charge of “unexplained wealth” against him.

Nawaz Sharif and his party strongly feel that the demand for an indemnity bond, in effect, reflects the “extortionist cravings” of a “vindictive government.”

In a frighteningly polarized Pakistan of these days, it is extremely difficult to stay “objective” for journalists. Without getting into any deep discussion, the political reporter in me could not ignore a comment that Khawaja Asif had made during his speech Thursday.

He sounded quite serious in expressing that Prime Minister Imran Khan had approved the idea of “indemnity bond,” in sheer anger. “He (the Prime Minister),” Asif claimed, “had been feeling left out of the process” that eventually triggered the idea that Nawaz Sharif certainly needed to go abroad to adequately address the multiple complications, endangering his health.

Discussing the real or presumed “anger” of Imran Khan, Asif did sound suggesting as if there indeed was a “process,” which actively focused upon Nawaz Sharif’s health and the question of how to deal with it.

Simply put, Khawaja Asif implicitly admitted through his Thursday speech that some top leaders of the PML-N had been approaching some powerful quarters to seek some “relief” for Nawaz Sharif, above and beyond the prime minister. Imran Khan remained oblivious to it. As the “Chief Executive”, he became aware of “the process,” only after formally getting the request that sought the federal cabinet’s approval for removing the name of Nawaz Sharif from the Exit Control List (ECL).

Given the emotionally explosive context of these days, one would prefer not to put even some legitimate questions related to the “process,” Asif had causally referred to during his speech. Suffice for the moment is to state that “the process,” Asif had referred to, certainly failed to help the PML-N in the end. This party of very “experienced politicians” has obviously been pursuing a faulty strategy and it certainly is too late now for damage control.

It surely is time for the PML-N to realize that the manner, in which it had handled the issue of Nawaz Sharif’s health, eventually helped the PTI to recharge its “corruption-hating” base. The ardent admirers of Imran Khan feel pleased and proud about the unforgiving-looking stance, he has adopted for dealing with Nawaz Sharif’s health. Even the “neutral types” have begun to loudly wonder on social media as to why “the phenomenally rich Sharifs” were so reluctant to submit the indemnity bond, if sincerely concerned about Nawaz Sharif’s health.

A deeply tragic and sad story is rather being reduced to a simplistic either/or. The burden of choice has conveniently been passed over to the Sharif family. Its integrity is being questioned and most people have earnestly begun to ask as to why the Sharifs were behaving “irresponsible”, if not “callous,” by not submitting the indemnity bond, here and now, to ensure SOS relief to Nawaz Sharif.

Doing this, even some high profile journalists, hugely admired for “investigative skills,” never cared to check the amount of wealth both Nawaz Sharif and his brother had been declaring while contesting elections since the mid-1980s.

A quick glance of the assets and wealth statements, declared to the Election Commission, failed to convince the economic-illiterate in me that both of them have the capacity to pledge seven and a half billion Pak Rupees, on their own. They apparently need to beg or borrow to furnish the amount to be pledged. Perhaps the whole of Sharif family has to contribute, massively, or the sons of Nawaz Sharif need to move up to the table by pledging some of the businesses and properties, they own in foreign countries.

By submitting the indemnity bond, Nawaz Sharif would also admit, almost explicitly, that he had been hiding facts about his health. The Supreme Court of Pakistan was thus justified to find him not a Sadiq and Amin. He surely deserved to be disqualified for holding a public office, until death. Don’t complain, therefore, if the Accountability Court also sentenced him to a long term in jail.

It surely is not the simple question of “health or wealth?” for the Sharif family or the PML-N. Nawaz Sharif is rather confronting an existentialist dilemma, pregnant with hugely grave consequences. It compels you to recall the intensity, associated with so many characters of Shakespeare’s tragedies.