Pakistan
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News Analysis |

Former Prime Minister and president of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), Nawaz Sharif arrived in Islamabad today to appear in an accountability court in relation to three graft references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The references were filed in-line with the unanimous verdict of the Supreme Court that disqualified the 67-year old from holding public office in July this year.

Sharif landed in Islamabad in PIA flight PK 786 and was received by PML-N supporters and leaders in Senators Asif Kirmani and Pervaiz Rasheed and federal minister Dr. Tariq Fazal Chaudhary. His entourage of 56 vehicles reached the Punjab House a while ago, compelling TV analysts to once again question the authority under which he got state-level protocol.

It remains to be seen as to how a beleaguered Sharif will face NAB’s onslaught, the relentless opponent in Imran Khan and rifts within his party? The options are limited and dangerous.

The NAB officials, who sought access inside his flight did not show up. A letter was written to the Airport Security Force (ASF) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) stating that an accountability court issued Sharif’s bailable arrest warrants and directed that the accused should be produced in court on 3rd November. “It is therefore requested that the officers/ officials of this Bureau may be allowed access to Flight PK 786 for compliance of the orders of the learned court,” the letter said.

With ASF escorting Nawaz all the way up to the Punjab House, questions will be raised on the authority and willingness of NAB to do what they are supposed to do. Besides, pundits are concerned as to how the government is using state resources in a family case.

Read more: Nawaz Sharif – The unacceptable face of our politics

Sharif, who was indicted in all the three references last month spoke to the media before his departure from London. While reiterating the injustice meted out to him, Sharif said he is ready to face any court. “My personal family issues on one side, I am going to Pakistan to appear before the NAB court on 3rd November,” he said referring to the ailment of his wife, Ms. Kulsoom Nawaz.

Sharif, who many believe is up against a tall order said that it is not the first time such a thing is happening to him and his family. “We have faced sham trials before… but we never ran away and faced accountability time and again,” he said.

Legal experts and even sources in the PML-N are convinced that the legal noose is tightening to an extent where Sharif will find it difficult to wriggle out.

Watchers have pointed out the dilatory tactics which were unsuccessfully employed by the Sharifs to delay the impending indictment. However, Sharif said that despite not liking the verdict, he respected the court and did not impede in its operations. This statement, however, seemingly does not correlate with the post-verdict narrative built by the Sharif family and the ruling party.

Taking serious exceptions to the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N and the ruling family whipped up the “mujhey kyun nikala ” narrative and questioned the authority of the 5 judges to oust a democratically elected prime minister. Till date, experts believe that in order to obfuscate matters owing to little legal defense, the family ramped up the conspiracy narrative.

Read more: Nawaz Sharif kay ‘BACHAY’ or ‘Sons & Daughter’?

Sharif seems adamant in his stance. “What’s the scandal that I have been involved in? What’s the issue? What’s the charge-sheet against me? What is the case of assets beyond means against me? What’s this whole drama in the name of accountability? Is this an NICL scandal? Is this a NACTA scandal? Is this the Hajj scandal? Or is this an IPP scandal?” asked Sharif.

Taking serious exceptions to the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N and the ruling family whipped up the “mujhey kyun nikala ” narrative and questioned the authority of the 5 judges to oust a democratically elected prime minister.

He went on to repeat that he was ousted because of Iqama (work permit) instead of the highly-touted Panama Case. “The case started in the name of Panama… my name was not even [mentioned] in the Panama [papers], it’s still not there, nothing was found against me in Panama, not until today. When nothing was found in Panama against me, I was ousted using Iqama. I am shocked and saddened that this drama has been staged because it is Pakistan that has suffered and continues to suffer,” Sharif stressed.

A day before his flight, Sharif decided to field his younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif as the prime ministerial candidate in the next elections, should he remain disqualified. Legal experts and even sources in the PML-N are convinced that the legal noose is tightening to an extent where Sharif will find it difficult to wriggle out.

Read more: Nawaz Sharif and the Supreme Court’s decision

Seemingly, the decision to push Shahbaz one step closer to Islamabad has ended all speculations of rifts between the two brothers. However, sources privy to the party, assert that Sharif vociferously rejected Shahbaz’s suggestion of avoiding an institutional clash, while chiding a few of the party leaders in criticizing his style.

Sharif, who was indicted in all the three references last month spoke to the media before his departure from London. While reiterating the injustice meted out to him, Sharif said he is ready to face any court.

Pundits feel that with all legal options have dried up after the indictment, Sharif is bound to resort to politics of confrontation. However, watchers are certain that besides the futility of this approach, it will be risky and something that the country and the party cannot afford.

It remains to be seen as to how a beleaguered Sharif will face NAB’s onslaught, the relentless opponent in Imran Khan and rifts within his party? The options are limited and dangerous. Analysts feel that the next few weeks are very critical for the future of the Sharif family and perhaps the PML-N too.

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