Nawaz Sharif’s options: From Bad to the Worst!

  • The former Prime Minister is between the devil and deep sea politically and legally. Each political and legal option is land-mined with foreseeable potential backlash and therefore, there appears to be no safe exit route which can ensure his graceful political survival.

Three times elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been losing the “traditional science” to win forthcoming general elections since July last year when Supreme Court disqualified him after he formally confessed to have concealed his overseas assets, which, under law of the land is treated as “ corruption and corrupt practices”.

Predictably, feudal lords and traditional political opportunists have been mostly defecting to Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf or the PTI, perceived to be in the good book of country’s military establishment.

Desertions and defections would further accelerate as the general elections are nearing. Pakistan’s politics largely works by pragmatism and least by high moral grounds.

This means neither would potentially “electable candidates” stay in the ruling party, nor would the majority of the people prefer to vote for a political party which they perceive “is not going to be allowed to win forthcoming general elections” by the State institutions which have direct or indirect legal, political and geo-strategic interests in an ongoing prosecution of the former Prime Minister and his children on money laundering charges.

The five-year-long tenure of ruling Muslim League in Islamabad and Punjab is scheduled to end in the last week of May this year. The ongoing trial of the ousted Prime Minister and his children on money laundering charges is also likely to be concluded within the next six to seven weeks.

The accountability court is likely to announce its verdict probably when Nawaz Sharif’s governing party would not be in power.  Therefore, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is politically nearing a dead-end situation. His options range from bad to worse and worse to the worst.

Nawaz Sharif’s Legal Troubles

Much of the political and legal troubles of Nawaz Sharif and his family are of their own making, the lethal part of which is likely to shake them in near future. The harder parts of the ongoing trials of Sharif family have yet to begin, which would revolve around his blunder when he claimed in May 2016 in the Parliament that he possessed all proofs with which Sharif’s family setup business empire in the Middle East and subsequently “purchased luxurious properties in London in 2006” through dubious off-shore companies. It was his bluff which is now his Achilles heel.

In hindsight, had he not done so, the Supreme Court and prosecuting agency would not have had much legally to implicate him on money laundering charges. The former premier allegedly siphoned off public funds and established mega businesses and bought properties in the name of his children in early 1990s and after 2000 when he was exiled to Saudi Arabia under a disgraceful deal with the former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf.

Under National Accountability Ordinance and the Law of evidence, now Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and two sons are virtually guilty until they come up with cogent evidences specifically explaining the sources of income with which they set up their businesses and bought properties in London.

Therefore, there is greater likelihood that Accountability Court will find Nawaz Sharif and his daughter guilty while his two other sons have been fugitives of law.

The former Prime Minister is between the devil and deep sea politically and legally. Each political and legal option is land-mined with foreseeable potential backlash and therefore, there appears to be no safe exit route which can ensure his graceful political survival.

Nawaz Sharif’s Bad Option

Nawaz Sharif’s bad option is in fact is his best available option in the given political situation. If the Accountability Court convicts and imprisons his and his daughter together with the confiscation of their properties, they should fight it legally and politically.  Even many supporters of Nawaz Sharif admit that he is financially corrupt like many other politicians and but they believe that he is relatively less corrupt and least offender of law as compared to People Party’s co-chairperson Asif Zardari and former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf.

Presumably next political government of PTI, the military and the judiciary would be in real trouble if they keep Sharif and his daughter in jail while they spare Asif Zardari and General Musharraf from prosecution.

There are far more serious charges against Musharraf and Zardari as compared to Nawaz Sharif. Therefore, the public perceptions is building up that ongoing accountability process is one sided. And it would further strengthen if other two alleged pillars of perceived corruption and offenders of law are not prosecuted.

 Nawaz Sharif’s Worse Option

Nawaz Sharif’s worse option is to seek pardon from the President of Pakistan pleading that trial “was politically motivated”. If this option is exercised, it would be a recipe for political backlash and Sharif would lose his traditional vote bank in the central Punjab. Nawaz Sharif may be more inclined to exercise this option.

However, the state institutions probably would not let that happen. There is a stronger possibility that the trial court would announce its verdict after ruling party completes its tenure which means there would be caretaker setup which is unlikely to process any plea of mercy to the President.

The other unpopular option is to misuse the office of the President of Pakistan and suitably amend the National Accountability Ordinance with retrospective effects in a manner that the burden of proof would be onto the prosecuting agency and not Sharif family to prove its innocence. If the ruling party exercises this option, superior courts are likely to strike down such a controversial Presidential ordinance.

Nawaz Sharif’s Worst Option

Nawaz Sharif’s worst option is to leave Pakistan under the pretext of inquiring after his ailing wife’s health and delay his return at least beyond general elections to avert being imprisoned. That is the worst option which would politically dump him and his party and more and more “electable” candidates would defect to PTI.

That means more controversy about his moral and political credentials and more debate in the mainstream and social media to bring him and his family back through Interpol.

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Javed Rana

Javed Rana

With over two decades of journalistic experience including a long stint with Al-Jazeera, Javed Rana is witness to countless monumental developments taking place in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Javed focuses on non-state armed actors, legal, political & geostrategic issues.