ISLAMABAD: Whether former prime minister Nawaz Sharif will immediately return home from London after the July 6 judgment of accountability court judge Muhammad Bashir or stay back there is a question that quickly came under discussion after the verdict was reserved in the London apartments’ reference.
“Two tentative options had been discussed in our deliberations in London before the judge reserved his ruling on Tuesday,” a confidante of the former premier, who participated in the consultations in Britain and has since flown back, told The News on condition of anonymity.
Spelling out one option, according to him, Nawaz Sharif told his aides that he will take the next flight for Pakistan and go straight to jail if he was sentenced by the accountability court. “I will leave my wife Begum Kalsoom in whatever condition she then will be,” the ex-premier told his associates.
The second option Nawaz Sharif decided to follow, his adviser said, was to remain with his ailing wife if he was not convicted as then there would be no justification for him to leave her alone at the ventilator.
However, he was hopeful that during the current week Begum Kalsoom would show some improvement, enabling him to depart for Pakistan to run the election campaign if the reference being heard against him remained undecided.
The adviser said that the former prime minister was of the view that despite his absence from Pakistan his lawyers have not resorted to a go-slow policy or created any hurdles in the unprecedentedly speedy proceedings in the accountability court.
After Maryam’s counsel Amjad Pervez wrapped up his arguments on Tuesday, the accountability judge reserved his ruling and announced that he would pronounce his decision on Friday. Earlier, Nawaz Sharif’s lead counsel Khawaja Haris had concluded his arguments.
This will be the first of the three references being heard by the same accountability court to be decided by it now. These were filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on the Supreme Court direction contained in its July 2017 judgment in the Panama case.
Originally, the subordinate court was given six months to decide all the references on which proceedings started in September 2017. However, the court could not do so within the given timeframe. The apex court gave an extension, but still the judicial forum was unable to conclude them. Later, another extension was granted by theSupreme Court. While giving the last extension, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had told Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer Khawaja Haris to hurry up even if he has to appear before the accountability court on Saturdays and Sundays. But the lawyer had refused to work on holidays and recused himself from continuing further as the counsel.
Only the judge knows what will be the decision, but a general perception that has been prevailing among public circles since long is that it will be less than a miracle if Nawaz Sharif and Maryam were let off the hook. However, if convicted they will have the right of appeal in the Islamabad High Court. In almost all such appeals, high courts always instantly suspend the decisions of the lower courts and decide the challenges later after affording due opportunity to the accused as well as the prosecution.
Another question that was promptly debated was whether Nawaz Sharif’s conviction or acquittal will benefit or hurt him at this crucial time when he is required to be fully involved in spearheading his party’s election campaign for the July 25 electoral clash.
Obviously, the former prime minister’s imprisonment will serve as a handicap to lead the PML-N’s election campaign, but his confinement will stir up a sympathy wave and victimhood card. However, at the same time it may send a demoralising message to certain shaky elements of his party. His decision to hurriedly return in case of his sentencing will show to his supporters, voters and workers that he is not a coward or scared of incarceration as he has been saying for months.
Simultaneously, it will also not be less interesting to hear the judgment relating to Maryam Nawaz, who, in her own right, is a powerful election campaigner.
Nawaz Sharif is already disqualified for life to contest any election. On the Supreme Court orders, he was removed as the president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) as, in its opinion, a disqualified person can’t hold the party office.