Islamabad -  The ambiguity about the Sharif family members’ return plan and their decision to stay away from the trial in accountability courts is only adding to their problems on both political and legal fronts, and spinning the party leaders into confusion.

Even after a marathon session on Saturday with the senior party leaders - including Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi - Nawaz Sharif was in a state of indecision about his return and that was the reason he skipped the question from the media about his return plan.

The party leaders would be meeting again today (Sunday) for which PM Abbasi had also extended his stay in London, to devise strategy on Sharif family return plan, NAB cases, reopening of Hudaibiya Paper Mills and other related issues.

In background interviews with ruling party parliamentarians it was noted that even some senior party members were unaware of the future line of action of the party leadership as no direction was given to them from the high command.

The senior parliamentarians, including some federal cabinet members, saw this confusion on part of the leadership detrimental to the party’s performance in the upcoming general elections that are approaching close.

In case Nawaz Sharif did not return to the country before the next general elections, it would become impossible to keep the party intact - especially when the Sharifs would be declared absconders for not joining the accountability trials, a political observer opined.

The senior party leaders were also worried about the way party leadership was handling the things and they admitted that Nawaz Sharif’s absence in the next general elections would cost the party dearly.

Some of these leaders in their private conversations said that instead of skipping the court trials Nawaz Sharif and his family members should fulfil the legal requirements and face the cases.

Sources aware of Saturday’s London meeting said that the party leaders including Prime Minister Abbasi, Khawaja Asif, Ch Barjees Tahir and others discussed various options but they could not devise any concrete way forward. Therefore, they would be meeting again today and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who flew to London Saturday evening, would also join them.

In the meeting the legal team’s input on NAB cases was also put on the table wherein, according to insiders, the team recommended that Nawaz Sharif and other members of Sharif family should join the trials over NAB references as only then they would be in a position to get some relief from the courts.

PM Abbasi has extended his London stay for another day or so and he would not be returning Saturday night as per schedule. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar would also be staying back there for another couple of weeks and would likely step down from his ministerial slot because of the NAB corruption reference against him and the imminent opening up of Hudaibiya Paper Mills case - which would plunge him in big trouble because he had retracted from his statement as approver in the case.

Political observers say the future of Sharifs as well as Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz directly hinges on the return strategy of Nawaz and his family and their handling of the NAB cases.

If the Sharifs would continue defying the court summons in the corruption cases the court would ultimately declare them fugitive and issue their perpetual arrest warrants.

How the party would effectively function and perform in the next general elections when the central party figure would be a fugitive and could even handed down some punishment in absentia, asked a former parliamentarian.

The accountability court would be taking up Dar’s case on 25th and it is expected that he would not show up in the court. That would force the court to issue his fresh arrest warrants. The very next day [on Sept 26] the same would be likely in the three corruption references against Nawaz, his sons Hassan and Hussain, daughter Maryam and son-in-law Capt(r) Safdar.

The issuance of arrest warrants of Sharifs would not go well with the party and their politics, and therefore the majority of party leaders want Sharif family to face the NAB cases. They believe that this was the only way to keep the party intact and perform well in the next general elections.



Abrar Saeed