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Will meetings in Saudi Arabia help Nawaz?

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News Analysis

Pakistan’s ex-Premier, Nawaz Sharif, facing corruption cases in an Accountability Court, reached Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Monday night instead of heading to Lahore as was earlier planned. Pakistani TV channels report that he will have important meetings there before heading back to Pakistan to face court trial. Political analysts wonder if these meetings with Saudi officials help in finding a way out of his present political and legal troubles in Islamabad.

Nawaz Changing Travel Plans

Nawaz Sharif’s travel plans kept changing. He was initially scheduled to fly to Pakistan on October 21. Later media reported that he is scheduled to reach Lahore via PIA flight, PK-758 from London. Finally, on Monday night he boarded a plane to Jeddah, where its reported that he will meet his mother, will take her for Umra and will hold important meetings.

What legal and political help Nawaz Sharif will get from Saudi authorities will become clear in the next few days. After his arrival in Jeddah, Nawaz was received by Saudi officials and members of the PML-N at the airport

He had left Pakistan on Oct 5, without taking permission from the court; he did not appear in the court hearings on Oct 9, Oct 13 and Oct 19 and applied, through his lawyer, Khawaja Harris that he be allowed to plead through a “nominee” (pleader) during the process of Indictment.

Read more: Nawaz Sharif Corruption Trial: Should there be a live transmission from…

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The indictment in Absentia: Implications? 

Nawaz Sharif was finally indicted on Oct 19, along with daughter Maryam Nawaz and son in law, Capt. Safdar. The indictment in Pakistani law needs the presence of the accused, the court has to read the charge sheet to him; this is a legal requirement. Though Nawaz had formally requested on Oct 9, that he be allowed to be represented through a “pleader” during “indictment, but within hours of the indictment, while talking to media in London, he protested that he has been indicted in absentia, remarking: “What kind of justice is this?”.

NAB has not shown much genuine interest in making its case for getting information from the UK, otherwise British authorities had extended maximum cooperation in the investigation of Surrey Palace  case of Asif Ali Zardari and late Benazir Bhutto.

Legal expert, and ex-Special Prosecutor of NAB, Barrister Shahzad Akbar, while participating in Dunya News program, “Tonight with Moeed Pirzada” on Sunday, Oct 23, explained that absence during indictment is a legal strategy because, during the appeal in high court, Nawaz lawyers will argue that prosecution was moving in “undue haste” and indicted their client in his absence. Barrister Akbar argued that Nawaz Sharif and his lawyers hope that after several months, and with a changed political climate, after elections 2018, a new court bench may be more sympathetic and be able to buy their arguments.

Read more: Survival Strategy: Nawaz Sharif files Review petitions with the Supreme Court

Meetings in Saudi Arabia? 

Though Geo News reports that Nawaz’s meetings in Saudi Arabia are strict of private nature, other TV channels report that he will have meetings with Saudi Officials on the political situation in Pakistan. Will these meetings help find some way out for his troubled political future is a question being debated on Pakistani media.

Nawaz at one time had been very close to the House of Saud, the ruling family. He stayed in exile from Dec 2000 till 2005 as the guest of the royal family, however in recent years, these relations had not been that warm.

Nawaz at one time had been very close to the House of Saud, the ruling family. He stayed in exile from Dec 2000 till 2005 as the guest of the royal family, however in recent years, these relations had not been that warm. However, still during the JIT investigations, while UAE authorities provided information, Saudis had generally stayed quiet. Middle Eastern diplomats in Islamabad, in strict confidence, told media sources that had Saudis provided information on the businesses of Nawaz Sharif family then his troubles would have multiplied many times.

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Nawaz Businesses: roots in the Middle East

Most of the businesses of Nawaz Sharif and his sons, under reference in a corruption trial in Islamabad – Al Azizia Steel Mills, FZE Capital, Hill Metal Establishment – have roots inside Middle East. While inexplicable transactions kept taking place between these businesses, most businesses were also making losses. For successful prosecution and conviction, continuous cooperation from legal authorities across Middle East may be needed.

Barrister Akbar argued that Nawaz Sharif and his lawyers hope that after several months, and with a changed political climate, after elections 2018, a new court bench may be more sympathetic and be able to buy their arguments.

Earlier a NAB team headed by its Prosecutor General, Waqqas Qadeer Dar, was in London and apparently has not received much cooperation from British authorities. However sources in Islamabad, familiar with NAB process, have told GVS in confidence, that NAB has not shown much genuine interest in making its case for getting information from the UK, otherwise British authorities had extended maximum cooperation in the investigation of Surrey Palace (Rockwood Estate) case of Asif Ali Zardari and late Benazir Bhutto.

Read more: Panama JIT: Has Army been trapped?

What legal and political help Nawaz Sharif will get from Saudi authorities will become clear in the next few days. After his arrival in Jeddah, Nawaz was received by Saudi officials and members of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz at the airport.


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