Either to stay in London or return and face music

ISLAMABAD: Immediately after the verdict was handed down by the accountability court on Friday afternoon, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to return and face jail. However, he did not give any timeframe for his return.

Aside from merits and demerits, the verdict has come at a time when elections are only three weeks away.

Despite all odds, the former premier and his daughter Maryam Safdar, who has also been declared a convict, have to an extent been successful in their narrative since Sharif was ousted from office in July last year. After this conviction, Maryam is out of the election race for her own seat that would have made her debut in the parliament in the 2018 general elections.

The tough stance that the father and daughter took against the powerful military establishment and what the duo termed as judicial martial law, though appealed to a sizeable segment within the party and in the general public, created irreparable damage within the party ranks.

Now they have a critical choice to make; either they return back within the next week or stay in the UK, at least till the elections, and continue building momentum.

They would surely be put behind bars immediately after landing if they are not granted some relief from a higher court against Friday’s order. This would be no less than a calculated risk. They would not have unfettered access to media when in jail which they currently have in London.

On the other hand, a rousing welcome back home can give PML-N a new life. Though the Nawaz-League has been facing daunting challenges during the election days, it is still not out of the race.

After completion of terms of assemblies, the PML-N is not in power anymore. Caretakers are at the helm of affairs. In case they fail to muster sizeable welcome in the streets upon their return, the move could backfire.

But at the same time, if they do not return before this month’s polls, their opponents would be at liberty to propagate the impression that Sharifs left the country when they were faced with testing times. They had signed a covert covenant with General (retd) Pervez Musharraf and opted for self-exile after 1999 military takeover instead of facing military dictator, leaving the party in a lurch.

There are already speculations of a purported deal to stay away for the time being. A delay would exacerbate such an impression, which would cost PML-N the ballot on July 25.

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Party insiders claim Maryam wants to return immediately, but her father is not in favour of a hasty decision. He wants to access the situation before taking a final decision.

Many people believe that Sharif had been miscalculating the entire situation since the Panama saga began in April 2016. It was a politically mishandled case on part of Sharif. The PML-N should have fought this case in the parliament as was advised to them by the PPP which has an experience of facing such adversaries.

Had the government shown flexibility when it was negotiating terms of reference with opposition teams for a proposed commission to investigate all those whose names had surfaced in the Panama Papers, this case, which was more political nature, would not have reached the courts.

The former prime minister, when he made his speech in the parliament and addressed the nation on TV over the issues, should have consulted some legal experts instead of reading the text written by his kitchen cabinet members.

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The contradictions in the content of his speeches and the material provided in the courts in the Sharif family’s defence went against them and are explicitly mentioned in the judgment.

Similarly, the family, appearing before the Supreme Court-constituted JIT, whose members also included officials of intelligence agencies, also castigated its composition.

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They also opted to confront the military establishment and the top judiciary despite many sane voices within the party, including former prime minister’s own brother, telling them not to do so. The press conferences of elder and the younger Sharifs in the aftermath of the announcement of the judgment are evident enough to prove this fact.

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    Original news : https://tribune.com.pk/story/1751736/1-either-stay-london-return-face-music/