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Will Maryam Nawaz Be Allowed To Travel Abroad?

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Awais Babar analyses how the government will react if Maryam Nawaz is allowed to travel abroad by the courts given that a number of ministers publicly expressed their frustration over the LHC decision allowing former PM Nawaz Sharif to leave the country. 

Without a doubt, the government is acting scatter-brained and so are the pro-PTI analysts. Credits for the recent twitch go to Maulana Fazlur Rehman whose march seems to have had a snowball effect on the politics of Pakistan.

The way events unfolded gave rise to a situation that allowed Nawaz Sharif to go abroad. Reacting to the LHC decision allowing the former PM to travel abroad, PML-Q leader Pervaiz Elahi opened up about establishment’s endeavours to ‘set up’ PTI from a one man party to many. Later, the army chief’s extension got into a hotchpotch.

One of the most unfortunate things that I come across while commenting on a legal situation is the intimacy that the establishment enjoys in almost all affairs of the state. The whole debate gets twisted and legal aspects get replaced by moral standpoints on opposite sides.

This frustration is not only mine, but Minister for Water Resources Mr. Faisal Vawda says the same, “You will see, we will not let Maryam Nawaz go abroad”, he said on a TV show the day Nawaz Sharif left the country.

The long-standing dissension continues to exist between the establishment and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif. Recent events manifest that the establishment and PML-N seem to have come down to a modus Vivendi. This is what keeps the PM and his kitchen cabinet angry all the time. This is not the pitch they thought they would be playing at.

All this happened due to the unexpected arrival of Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz from UK when they had to leave Begum Kulsoom Nawaz. Thereafter, everything started taking a new turn.

It was the government that allowed Nawaz Sharif to go abroad and courts cannot be blamed for that. However, it is also true that the government did not want to let go of Nawaz Sharif, but they were ordered to do so (not by the courts).

Up until now, the government has been acceding to every demand of the establishment, whether that pertains to removal of its ministers or importation of some technocrats who are experienced in getting what the latter wants.

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Though this ceasefire with Nawaz Sharif has given the government the first of ‘how it feels’ to be subservient, and yet at the same time wanting to be the king. “This time if the name (Maryam Nawaz) is removed from ECL we will challenge it in the courts”, Vawda reiterated his frustration in the cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

What the minister was actually saying is that if the establishment forced the government to remove her name from the ECL, the government would challenge it in the courts.

Every time government representatives are asked whether the government would allow Asif Zardari to go abroad, The government can clearly be seen expressing sarcasm on the establishment every time a question regarding government’s position on Asif Ali Zardari was being asked, “if convicted criminals like (Nawaz Sharif) can go abroad then why should an accused not get bail”, a unanimous answer by the government representatives.

Maryam Nawaz’s legal team seems to have made a smart move by directly applying to court for removal of her name from ECL instead of approaching the Interior Ministry. LHC’s direction to the federal interior ministry to make a decision within a week was expected, some applications are strategically made to courts to seek a direction for the client to get things moving. It also helps avoid the delaying tactics government usually employs to delay the inevitable.

Assuming that the government will stay put on its position and refuse to remove Maryam Nawaz’s name from ECL, her lawyers are likely to make another petition to Lahore High Court seeking her removal from ECL. Then the court will decide on ‘whether the government’s refusal was unreasonable.

Keeping in view the similar proceedings in essence by IHC in Nawaz Sharif’s bail hearing, if the government insists they shall deny the bail, it is likely that the courts would want the ball to be in the government’s court.

If the courts refuse to allow Maryam’s one time request to see her ailing father, the government will be at a loss – despite its apparent victory. The reason being that the government’s disinformation seems to have worked quite superbly with respect to Nawaz Sharif’s departure as personally I have had a hard time convincing people that it was the government who allowed Nawaz Sharif to go abroad not the courts. The Twitter trolls endorse the same.

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The government will have a hard time convincing people that they were right both times.

On the contrary, if the courts accept Maryam’s request and allow her to travel to UK despite government’s resistance, PTI will celebrate despite losing. Their narrative of the system being corrupt would be vindicated. Contempt petitions, even if initiated, are usually meaningless as the damage the tongues do is done. It is not uncommon for an accused to go abroad for different domestic reasons, however, since it is a politician’s case a perception will be created that the courts favoured the rich.

For the court it is as simple as that, “Will the accused (Maryam Nawaz) come back and face the charges?”

It is a win-win situation for PML-N as Nawaz Sharif is now in London and his family is there to take care of him, enough to make Maryam Nawaz content, irrespective of whether she is permitted to go abroad or not. But the government is at a loss from every vantage point, in general.

At the end of the day, people believe what they want to believe. Having said that, the bad news for PTI is that right from the first day it has entangled itself into this unending and unyielding accountability fuss and got distracted from its real job: governance.

Even the clock has stopped ticking and the fear of unseen is killing the government from inside. The whole governance of PTI is nothing, but the praise of its leader and abhorrence towards the other party heads.

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