Naveed Aman Khan
After 126 days long sit-in of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in 2014 the first serious jolt to the then Prime Minister Mohammed Nawaz Sharif was delivered in July 2017 when the country’s Supreme Court said: “He’s no more eligible to be an honest member of Parliament.” Sentenced for eleven long years, can the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif still bounce back as he has many times before? The word ‘chequered’ denoting good and bad fortune is appropriate to qualify the trajectory of Nawaz Sharif who was sentenced on July 6, 2018 to eleven years in prison over financial transgressions. A three-time Prime Minister of his country, Nawaz Sharif had to face the ignominy of being pronounced guilty in absentia, for he is currently in Adiala jail while his wife in hospital in London.
The fact that this verdict was pronounced in the run up to Pakistan’s national election conducted on July 25, 2018 provides the political context to the rise and fall of Nawaz Sharif, who is the most credible political leader in a beleaguered nation, where the Army remains the tenacious domestic power broker and self-appointed guardian of democracy and the Islamic faith. Personal and professional misfortune have enveloped the Sharif Family in a tragic manner, for his daughter and political heir Maryam Nawaz and her husband were also awarded prison sentences in the same corruption case. Captain Safdar was arrested in Rawalpindi on July 8, 2018 and Pakistan’s anti-corruption agency, the National Accountability Bureau, advised the local media not to air or report speeches of the Sharif Family. However, Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam are no strangers to the Pakistani Establishment.
The military and the higher judiciary have placed various strictures against the PML (N) but Maryam Nawaz has declared that she along with her father will face long years of unjustified imprisonment. Most Pakistani watchers aver that the case against Nawaz Sharif Family is more political than legal and that in this case, the Sharifs were deemed guilty when the Panama scandal broke in April 2016. Assets acquired by the Sharif Family in London was the focus of the current NAB case and the selective manner in which the law was applied and the speed with which the police have moved point to the determination of the Pakistani Establishment to keep Nawaz Sharif and his family out of the political calculus in the July 25, 2018 elections. The first jolt to the former Prime Minister was delivered in July 2017 when Pakistan Supreme Court gravely pronounced: “He is no more eligible to be an honest member of Parliament, and he ceases to be holding the office of Prime Minister.” Nawaz Sharif was forced to step down and this was seen as a judicial coup carried out at the behest of the Army which was furious over a newspaper leak related to the establishment supporting terror groups and the ousted Prime Minister took his battle to the streets where he widely enjoyed considerable support.
This is where personal misfortunes multiplied for Nawaz Sharif. His wife’s health deteriorated and he was unable to mobilise the electorate in preparation for the July 2018 election. In the interim the Establishment in Pakistan appears to have identified former cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan as the new poster cricket boy for democracy. The chequered trajectory of Nawaz Sharif has many ironies embedded in it. In keeping with the roller coaster politics of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif was unable to complete his term as Prime Minister and in July 1993 he was unseated and followed by Benazir Bhutto. She in turn was shown the door in early 1997 and Nawaz Sharif was back as Prime Minister for a second term in February 1997 with a two thirds majority in Parliament. This was a heady mix of power and certitude that the 48 year old Prime Minister could govern Pakistan in the manner that he chose and that all the other institutions would fall into place. The certitude that had morphed into arrogance was misplaced.
In May 1998, Pakistan followed India and declared itself a nuclear weapon power and while no Pakistan Prime Minister has had any direct control over the nuclear arsenal of the country Nawaz Sharif was on a roll. In October 1998, Nawaz Sharif made a fatal error in forcing the resignation of the then Army Chief General Jahangir Karamat who had made some prudent suggestions about the management of Pakistan’s complex national security by a team of civil-military experts. Error based decision turned fatal blunder when Nawaz Sharif appointed General Pervez Musharraf as the Army Chief. A year later in October 1999, the second term of PM Nawaz Sharif came to an inglorious end and he was in prison for treason and more. Expelled to Saudi Arabia, the resilient Nawaz Sharif bounced back within a decade and was sworn in as Prime Minister for a third time in June 2013.
Unfortunately this time again he was unable to complete his term and the courts forced him to step down on July 28, 2017. Will, July 13 return from London to Lahore continue triggering a sympathy wave and mark the rise of Nawaz Sharif phoenix again, or is this the final fall? Number count in Prime Minister run up game of 2018, Shahbaz Sharif as representative of Nawaz Sharif grabbed 96 votes in worst conditions. Isn’t it indication of yet another dawn of Nawaz Sharif from the dusk?
— The writer is political analyst based in Islamabad.