The recently announced verdict of the Islamabad High Court granting conditional relief to the embattled Nawaz Sharif has disappointed the PLM (N) supporters who were expecting the judges to announce a no string attached parole with the permission to go abroad to seek treatment of his ailments. Nawaz could have then flown away to London for an indefinite period and escaped further imprisonment, without resorting to the humiliating ‘plea bargain’ option. For Imran Khan, the judgment is an unexpected bonus.
Imran Khan, in his election campaign had vowed to prosecute the two principal leaders of the PML (N) and the PPP for corruption and recover the money allegedly looted from the national exchequer by the duo. In the year since coming to power, the prosecution part has been successfully implemented and both Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, the PML (N) and PPP stalwarts are in jail. The recovery of the purportedly stolen money, however, has been unsuccessful to date.
I believe, the amount is exaggerated but the actual figure, whatever it might be, would still be substantial and it would come in very handy in balancing the national budget
Imran Khan, the PTI leader must have realised the money can only be recovered from the two at the cost of freeing them from internment. Since he has repeatedly vowed no National Reconciliation Order (NRO) will be given under his watch, an alternate had to be crafted and it was provided by the “plea bargain” option legally available with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which has the mandate to prosecute corrupt officials. The ‘plea bargain’ would allow the jailed leaders to be freed, and the supposedly looted money recovered legally without any NRO.
For Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, the plea bargain option would amount to committing political Hari Kiri on themselves and their scions, besides mortally wounding their respective parties. Both suffered from serious medical ailments even before imprisonment and their health has deteriorated further under captivity. Independent medical reports suggest Nawaz Sharif’s medical condition is critical.
Nawaz Sharif and his legal team had approached the court requesting unconditional parole with the permission to go abroad for treatment. Their petition was accepted in part only and the parole relief awarded was time bound. For further extension of parole and to proceed abroad for treatment it directed the team to approach the Punjab government for permission. In effect, the Islamabad High Court has closed the option of seeking redress on the two subjects from them.
The full ruling of the Islamabad High Court has dealt a severe blow to any chances of seeking freedom without the humiliation of a plea bargain. Negotiating with the Punjab Government that is under the PTI is the only choice available to the two. Unless there is another twist in the event, a plea bargain of some sort is on the table.
Should the plea bargain occur, how much money will be returned to the national exchequer? A figure of anything between $ 15 and 20 billion is being bandied about. Personally, I believe, the amount is exaggerated but the actual figure, whatever it might be, would still be substantial and it would come in very handy in balancing the national budget.
Watch out for a significant increase in the county’s foreign reserve or a substantial Foreign Direct Investment in the near future – that would enhance the odds a covert or overt plea bargain operation is in play.
Air Cdre (Retd) Jamal Hussain has served in Pakistan Air Force from 1966 to 1997. He was awarded Sitara-e-Basalat for his services in the year 1982. He regularly contributes articles on defense issues in the Defence Journal from Pakistan, Probe Magazine (Dhaka – Bangladesh) and Dawn, The News, and The Nation English Dailies from Pakistan. He is the author of two books on ‘Air Power in South Asia’ and ‘Dynamics of Nuclear Weapons in South Asia’. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.