IN a major development, viewed by PML(N) as a wrong undone, Maryam Nawaz, Vice President of the Party, has been acquitted by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) along with her spouse Captain Muhammad Safdar (R), nullifying their imprisonment in the Avenfield Reference.
The court overturned the July 2018 verdict of the Accountability Court saying the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) failed to prove its case and that Maryam was not a public office- holder and, therefore, there is no case of assets beyond means against her.
PML(N) and its supporters are justifiably overjoyed acquittal of the couple while PTI and its sympathizers are describing it as ‘another dark day in the history of the country’ as the verdict is a serious setback to the corruption narrative built around the Sharif Family by their political opponents.
The verdict has proved beyond an iota of doubt that the accountability process was being used to victimize political rivals.
This became Absolutely clear when only the Sharif Family was targeted for judicial process after the Panama-leaks in which a number of other Pakistani individuals figured but they were conveniently not touched.
There are also reasons to believe that the judiciary was in haste to pronounce judgements against members of the Sharif Family, apparently to deny them an opportunity to contest the 2018 general election and this went to the advantage of their rival parties.
PML(N) supremo Mian Nawaz Sharif was disqualified for life on flimsy grounds in a unique case of receivable salary from the UAE-based company of his son.
That the NAB was openly being used for fixing opponents became clear when the Bureau did not take notice of some widely reported cases of mega corruption during the tenure of the PTI Government.
It was in this backdrop that the new Government made amendments in the accountability law to ensure that the institution was not used for victimization of people and that all legal requirements are met before a person is awarded a sentence under accountability laws.
The PTI is declaring the verdict in favour of Maryam as another black day in the history of Pakistan but those who bore the brunt of accountability during their tenure believe it is the dawn of a bright day.
There is no denying the fact that corruption is there in Pakistan and, in fact, it increased in the country as confirmed by the Corruption Perception Index.
Every patriotic Pakistan is convinced that the country cannot move forward unless the menace of corruption is addressed effectively but the process for the purpose should be across the board and there should be no discrimination between corruption by the present or the past rulers.
Legal fraternity believes members of the Sharif Family were targeted for corruption cases merely on assumptions and perceptions.
This became clear when the divisional bench of Islamabad High Court, hearing Maryam’s appeal against verdict of the accountability court, asked the NAB prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi to prove ownership of Avenfield properties with Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz with supporting documents not verbally.
The NAB prosecutor said the graft-buster body thinks Nawaz Sharif concealed Avenfield properties through his daughter Maryam Nawaz.
To this, the court asked NAB to prove their stance with the documentary proof and further said NAB could have pleaded this case in a better way.
As for PTI, it rightly feels depressed over the development, which came a day after PML(N) central leader Ishaq Dar took oath first as a Senator immediately after landing in Islamabad from London and then as Finance Minister.
PTI is describing it as NRO-II fearing the two developments are an indication that hurdles are being cleared for the smooth return of Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan and his participation in normal political activities.
Acquittal of Maryam has cleared the way for her to take part in parliamentary politics and this would surely give a boost to the popularity and effectiveness of the party.
Already, Maryam has stated that MNS would take a decision whether she would be joining the Punjab Assembly or the National Assembly.
There are indications that Maryam, who worked hard for the cause of the party, especially after the departure of her father for London, would prefer Punjab Assembly where her presence would brighten prospects for a political change and also electoral gains for the party in the next general election.