Sharifs in a quagmire



Mohammad Jamil

AFTER his disqualification from premiership by the five-member Bench of the Supreme Court, Nawaz Sharif is facing more problems. Although three-judge bench of the Supreme Court dismissed NAB’s appeal on December 15, 2017, the NAB legal team after a brief deliberation decided to file a review petition against the verdict. It means that Sharifs are not off the hook, as Shabaz Sharif, Hamza Sharif and others are also named in this case. With disqualification from the apex court Nawaz Sharif was barred from holding any public office; however, PML-N managed to amend the Political Parties Order (PPO). However, this amendment has been challenged by PTI Chairman Imran Khan and others. While the government claimed that an amendment to the order was part of the party’s reform agenda, it was widely believed that the amendment to PPO was an effort to restore Nawaz Sharif’s grip over the party.
But such attempts and statements of Nawaz Sharif and other PML-N leaders show that they are on a collision course, as former PM Nawaz Sharif and PML-N leaders continue with their litany that he was disqualified only for iqama and not on corruption charges. Nevertheless, the court in its detailed judgment had responded to Nawaz Sharif’s question as to why he was disqualified. Meanwhile, the All Parties Conference (APC) led by Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) ended with a January 7 deadline for Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah and others to resign, as they are allegedly responsible for the Model Town incident. Apart from demanding action against them, the APC demands the chief justice of Pakistan to form a JIT taking suo motu notice on the incident, which was against humanity, state, and the public. The APC demanded that a judge of the Supreme Court should monitor the JIT.
APC also demanded that no NRO be given — under internal or external pressure — to the Sharif family, which has looted the national wealth. The public will not accept it if relief of any sort is given to the Sharif family. There have been a lot of rumors and reports that Saudi Arabia will broker the deal between Sharifs and the establishment. Sunday Times of London stated in its report that Nawaz Sharif would say goodbye to politics and stay in London. But there is a perception that this time round Saudi Arabia’s royal family is not playing any role in brokering another NRO-like deal for the Sharif family. And in fact, King Salman is all set to advise former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to avoid confrontation with state institutions. The abrupt departure of Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif to Saudi Arabia triggered speculations about a possibility of another NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) for the Sharifs.
Of course, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have excellent relations, and the KSA wants to see Pakistan stable politically and economically, as it is a trust worthy friend. The diplomatic source told a national daily that Pakistan had requested for financial help and also provision of oil on deferred-payment basis to which KSA responded favorably. The source said: “This economic package would not be for the ruling party. Saudi Arabia is helping the state of Pakistan as the bond between the two countries is not limited to certain individuals, but it is a bond between the brotherly states. It also reflects the trust and faith Saudi Arabia has in the state of Pakistan. It has to be mentioned that Pakistan is facing economic challenges, including reimbursement of $ 6 billion to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other foreign creditors in the next six months. Meanwhils, Pakistan’s trade deficit has reached $12.1 billion in the first four months of the current fiscal year.
Last month, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar ruled that Imran is not disqualified as a parliamentarian, as the petitioner was not directly affected in the foreign funding case. The court also ruled that the ECP will impartially investigate the foreign funding claims against the PTI chief by scrutinizing accounts up till five years ago. PTI will be in a position to take advantage of possible defections in the PML-N, which can happen if Nawaz Sharif continues to pursue collision course with the judiciary and establishment. In a public meeting in Abbottabad, he had said: “The only court he is answerable to is people’s court of 200 million…The general public is neither deaf nor blind and will carry out accountability of all those who denied justice to their leader who came to power through the ballot.”
It further stated that reason behind the damages to the state was questionable judgments issued under ‘doctrine of necessity’ that allowed ‘bandits’ to rule the country. According to reports senior party leaders believed that Sharif was annoying the judiciary at a time when crucial cases are pending against him in the courts. He is trying to convince the people that he has been wronged. Some PML-N leaders have been lambasting judiciary and establishment day in and day out. It was in this backdrop that during the hearing of Jahangir Tareen case, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar remarked: “The court is displaying extreme patience with regards to what is being said about it outside, and judges should be appreciated.” One would not know about the outcome of the NAB references in the Accountability Court, but confrontational mode of the PML-N leaders is fraught with dangers and uncertainties.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.

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