As expected, the birds appear to have flown the coop raising the specter of another NRO. One of my political pundits insists that the script for departure was beautifully written and timed by the former Prime Minister and his principal advisors. First an ‘unbeatable reason’ was created for the family members to leave the country one by one. It is not that this reason was false (it is my fervent prayer that Begum Sahiba defeats her deadly disease and recovers fully), but it was the timing of it. A sympathy wave was expected to be generated by the news and a sweeping bye-election win in absentia would have created excellent leverage against the Supreme Court decision, while providing much ‘grist for the propaganda mill’. The Sharif Family is now safely ensconced in their London Residence, at a premises known to all and sundry except Mr. Saeed Kirmani, the Special Political Assistant to the disqualified PM, who is reported to have told the court that he is not aware of the Sharif’s address in London. A tweet by Ms. Maryam Safdar saying that her father should and must not appear before any accountability court is an indication of increased defiance, now that all defendants are beyond the reach of Pakistani Law.
If the outcome of NA 120 was being propagated as a ‘people’s JIT’, then the result did not bode well for the Sharif’s, since PML-N won with a meagre margin of around 14000 votes (losing at least 30000 votes since the last election). I was present in Lahore on this day and at one stage could spot the panic and desperation in the PML-N camp. In the opinion of many neutral observers, the dent in PML-N vote bank is a moral victory for PTI and the national institutions targeted by Mr. Nawaz Sharif. The fact that the loss of vote by the ruling party did not increase PTI vote leads one to conclude that these voters abstained from casting their ballot. The conspiracy theorists from amongst us believe that this abstention could well be the result of the alleged rift between the Nawaz and Shahbaz households.
Back in London, media reports say that the Sharif Family has hired a reputed US lobbying firm. Same sources say that the lobbying campaign may target our national institutions already under attack by the Sharif Family. If these reports are correct then the former Prime Minister is committing the deadliest mistake of his entire career by providing uncontroversial proof that he is indeed sleeping with the enemy. The latest statement of Mr. Altaf Hussain, in support of Mr. Sharif’s vendetta against the Army should be an eye opener for PML-N leadership, whose patriotism cannot be doubted. These individuals should at this point in time be doing a lot of soul searching as far as their ‘loyalty’ to the absconding ‘godfather’ is concerned.
There are also reports that a hastily called joint session of Parliament may pass constitutional amendments aimed at obstructing accountability, crippling the Apex Court and the Military and providing relief to Nawaz Sharif. If passed, these would become laws, which by any standards would be deemed as mala-fide and against public interest. Whether the Supreme Court would be able to exercise its constitutional responsibility in such a scenario and move against these changes is a matter that only legal experts can debate.
Mr. Nawaz Sharif has a recurring history of conflict with the military. This is perhaps a ‘complex’ resulting from his political birth in the lap of a military dictator. Whatever be the case, the Sharif’s appear to be under a curse that has no signs of lifting – due much to their own fault. Staying away from Pakistan and defying the accountability courts will be a bad decision for themselves, for their party and above all for democracy. It is now up to them as to how they want to be remembered by history.
The writer is a freelance columnist.