What if Nawaz is convicted?

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News Analysis |

The Accountability Court has dismissed ousted Prime Minister Nawaz’s application to delay the verdict and Judge Muhammad Bashir has decided to announce the verdict at 12:30 pm today. The high-profile case continued in the accountability court for 107-days, in which Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz failed to present a single witness.

NAB is a time-bound court. It would never delay the decision. According to the instructions of the Supreme Court, the latest deadline is July 09, therefore, delaying the verdict would not have been possible, given the fact that a delay a couple of days would not have made much difference.

Nawaz Sharif is in uncharted waters at the moment. He may not have many options. Speculations are also rife that Nawaz may stay in England and abort his decision to return and may seek political asylum. When a Supreme leader evades the law and circumstances may change very dramatically for the political party. It was seen in the case of MQM, how party withered away in its leader’s absence.

Nawaz would have played the ‘victim and sympathy card’ more effectively. Nevertheless, in case of conviction, his return may generate ripples in Pakistan’s political landscape and may convince PML-N voters to support him.

According to legal experts, if convicted, he must return to his homeland before July 14, to appeal before the Islamabad High Court (IHC). If he fails to surrender, in case of conviction, he may see an end to his political career and could become a spent force akin to MQM’s Altaf Hussain.

Read more: The nation awaits the accountability court decision

One must distinguish between the cases which come to NAB’s special courts and other courts. The accused in NAB are usually those who are responsible for losses of millions or billions of rupees to the exchequer, which is the case in this landmark case too. Maryam who is heir to Nawaz’s political empire if convicted, she will not be illegible to take part in elections.

According to the section 15 of the NAB ordinance-disqualification to contest elections [or to hold public office], “Where an accused person is convicted of 3[an offence under section 9 of this Ordinance] he shall forthwith cease to hold public office, if any, held by him and further he shall stand disqualified for a period of ten years, to be reckoned from the date he is released after serving the sentence, for seeking or from being elected, chosen, appointed or nominated as a member or representative of any public body or any statutory or local authority or in service of Pakistan or of any Province.”

According to the instructions of the Supreme Court, the latest deadline is July 09, therefore, delaying the verdict would not have been possible, given the fact that a delay a couple of days would not have made much difference.

NAB disqualifies the person for 10-years. After an appeal, the court may suspend it. But her absence can be critical to party’s chances in the upcoming polls. Moreover, if Nawaz returns, he faces arrest. According to legal protocol, and precedent which exists, the jail superintendent takes the thumps impression from the jail and afterward, the legal team can pursue the appeal in the IHC.

Read more: Is NAB becoming effective again?

If Nawaz and Maryam were here, the visuals of their arrest from courts would have made headlines. It could have made a difference. Nawaz would have played the ‘victim and sympathy card’ more effectively. Nevertheless, in case of conviction, his return may generate ripples in Pakistan’s political landscape and may convince PML-N voters to support him.

But the high probability of desertion also exists, if convicted. The length of the jail term is also important, if the conviction is less than 5-years, it may be easy to go to appellate tribunal to get a relief, according to a legal expert, Yaseen Azaad, if the period is greater than 5-years, it would be difficult to overturn the decision.

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