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No Deal, But A Face-Saver For The PM

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Is Nawaz Sharif’s expected departure abroad for medical treatment a result of a ‘deal’ or has PM Imran Khan allowed the former PM to go abroad to save his own face? Muhammad Ziauddin explains.

On the face it, the likely departure of Nawaz Sharif from the country on medical grounds looks like the result of a deal between the government and the Sharif family. And if at all a deal has been done then it must have happened on the basis of ‘plea bargain’ with Nawaz Sharif agreeing to pay back a substantial part of the ‘loot’ he had alleged to have plundered from national wealth using his public office. Since there has been no substantial increase in the Foreign Exchange Reserves of State Bank of Pakistan, such a bargain does not appear to have been made.

And if one went by the medical reports used by the family for release of Nawaz on bail and the observations of the Islamabad High Court (IHC), while allowing him an eight-week long bail, the suggestion of a deal sounds too far- fetched.

Also, the argument that Prime Minister Imran Khan has allowed Nawaz to go abroad for medical treatment on compassionate grounds also appears even more far-fetched because such gestures are not expected from one who only a couple of months back had publicly declared on a visit to Washington that on return home he would withdraw the air-conditioner from the cell where Nawaz is imprisoned. And even a couple of days back he had said ‘No NRO as long as I live’.

If it is not because of what various official spokespersons like Sheikh Rashid would have us believe, then perhaps it would help if the matter is studied from an opposite angle. Perhaps, the PM has decided to let Nawaz go abroad to save his own face! Sounds too outlandish?

But if one were to take a deeper look at the way the NAB has conducted the trials of most of the leading PMLN and PPP leaders including Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari over last 13 months (in case of NS by the Supreme court after June 2016 soon after the publication of Dawnleakes) one cannot help but reach the conclusion that it was all more of a media trial and the couple of NAB court verdicts obtained seem in retrospect too thin to stand appeals to higher courts.

Indeed, in the case of Avenfield case, the Islamabad High Court awarded bail to NS while ruling that it did not see any element of corruption in the case. In the Flagship case, NAB court found no evidence of corruption. And the verdict in the Azizia case has already become too controversial as it was passed by an allegedly corrupt judge.

In the case of Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur as well, it is mostly medial trial and so far their cases have not been sent to courts for trial for the obvious reason of not having enough prosecutable evidence. The same is the matter of benami accounts.

So far, the NAB has not been able to ‘recover’ a single penny of the alleged loot from all these so-called ‘plunderers’ of national wealth. And with the passage of time, it is gradually becoming clearer that it would all end a wild goose case with the government getting the flak by the end of its second year in office when the economy would be in its worse shape.

So, the health condition of Nawaz has come to the rescue of the PM and his government at just the right time. And perhaps the other partner on the ‘same page’ also seeing the writing the wall had advised the PM to act and act quickly.

Therefore, the departure of Nawaz abroad in a couple of days without a deal is likely.

The delay in removing the name of NS from the ECL list seems more like a drama being enacted for the benefit of the PTI workers.

There were not many in the country who had expected the PMLN to survive the managed disqualification through courts that had followed as one of the judges on the bench equated him and his family, by implication, with the Sicilian mafia. And those who had managed this copybook ouster of an elected prime minister had seemingly banked on the Party disintegrating immediately as it did in 2000 when Nawaz and family went into exile for ten years thanks largely to the intervention of the Saudi Royal family which had rescued him (in return for oil on differed payment) from what certainly looked like gallows or life imprisonment on the cooked up charges of plane hijacking.

For a couple of days following the disqualification of Nawaz, it had looked as if it was going to be a repeat of the 2000 when the PMLN had quickly morphed into PMLQ. This time they had hoped the party would get merged into PTI wholesale. Indeed, finally most of South Punjab readily responded to the command and went to PTI.    

But what actually was happening on ground was just the opposite of what the authors of the script had visualized. The tide seemingly turned on its head, first tentatively and then gradually and finally seemingly in full swing — a sort of a tsunami! Nawaz was drawing big crowds — crowds that seemed to be as charged as those that one continued to witness in PTI’s rallies. On occasions, the PML-N rallies appeared even more high-spirited than those that were being staged by other mainstream political parties.

Nawaz hasn’t just lasted since and survived every onslaught all these months. He also seems to have been giving the PTI-led coalition government a run for its money since August 2018.

Nawaz has set the game in such a manner that the people in general see it as a battle between the all –powerful establishment (even the most unversed among the general public knows what the term means) and a ‘powerless’ Nawaz suffering from multiple life threatening ailments — a sort of contest between David and Goliath!

It is not in the character of Punjab to defy authority. And this seems to have caused the Establishment to panic forcing it to resort to dirty tricks against ‘unwanted’ politicians and the independent media despite the fact that most of the mainstream media seem already to have been successfully manipulated.

The battle seems to have entered the last round. It has taken almost 72 years for this mortal combat between the forces of democracy on the one hand and the anti-democratic ones on the other to reach this point. And providentially, the last round is being fought in what has been known all along to be the strongest bastion of the undemocratic forces – Punjab.

It was Punjab that had provided the undemocratic forces all the help that they had needed to oppress and suppress all these years the democratic aspirations of the people of Pakistan. In fact, even in the bloody process leading up to the dismemberment of the country in December, 1971 it was the political Punjab that had extended the much needed crutches to these undemocratic forces to justify their oppression against the majority province.

All these years it had been a losing battle for the democratic forces simply because political Punjab had stood firmly behind these oppressive forces. Indeed, even as the last round began in the middle of 2016 it had seemed all was over even before it had begun.

And even those who had planned this battle in a copybook style could not have imagined that they were actually walking into the last round of the momentous combat. Indeed, there was not a single political pundit in the country who had not written off Nawaz Sharif and his PMLN for good when the former Prime Minister was disqualified by the Supreme Court after having him held for not being Sadiq and Amin (Personal attributes of our Prophet (PBUH) under the relevant law. Perhaps even those judges who had judged him so would find it impossible to pass the test of these laws.

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