The banners are still hanging in NA-120, the sweets are still being distributed and the dust from the election has barely settled, but Maryam Nawaz and her husband, retired captain Safdar have already jetted off to London. In the British capital they will join the rest of the Sharif family, who has been there for a while now, to look after the health of the winning candidate for NA-120; Begum Kulsoom.

While this narrative is certainly believable, and the one that the family has been propagating, the imminent hearings against the family in the references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) gives their hasty ‘flight’ double meanings. According to several Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N) leaders, the family does not plan to present themselves before the accountability courts. In fact, they might completely shun the courts altogether, refusing to send even their lawyer to the hearings – a notion that was not dispelled by the family’s attorney.

It seems the Sharif family has decided to abscond in the face of the law’s summons, in the literal sense if not the legal one. Of course, if they stay outside the country for long enough, they run the risk of being legally declared absconders, have arrest warrants issued against and have their assets confiscated. The same things that the PML-N was lambasting Pervez Musharraf for doing, now are being done by the party’s leaders.

What makes their decision to not appear before the court all the more baffling is that there is no end game in this strategy. The Sharifs will only earn ill-will, invite criticism and invite stringer legal sanctions – there is no way to make the NAB reference go away. Unless the end-game is permanent self-imposed exile, the family has to come back and face the law at some point, better do it with dignity.

What shall we make of the NA-120 victory then? After winning with a tighter margin than expected, this twilight departure will further erode the confidence projected by the party in the election. The optics of the move are terrible. Running away from justice doesn’t make for glorious spectacles, the Sharif family should know that by now.