A win for Maryam

By Editorial Board
September 30, 2022

In a turn of fortunes, and for some a rightful reset of justice, the Islamabad High Court on Thursday overturned the conviction of Maryam Nawaz and her husband Captain Safdar in the Avenfield case. A two-member bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani presided over the hearing. To many – both in the PML-N and independent legal observers – what had transpired in the Avenfield case in 2018 was a mockery of justice. The case against Nawaz was seen as weak but the case against Maryam and Safdar did not even make sense to many in the legal community. Maryam Nawaz eventually got bail in the Avenfield case when the IHC raised questions on how NAB had mishandled the case, not even managing to establish when the apartments were actually bought – 1993 or 2006. Without answering this main question, they could not determine the income of Nawaz Sharif in that year and whether it was indeed a case of assets beyond means.

The Avenfield case had over the past 2-3 years come to be seen as part of an aggressive anti-Sharif family campaign led by NAB, which eventually paved the way to the House of Sharif contesting the 2018 elections on a backfoot, weakened and broken for the most part. Due to her conviction, Maryam Nawaz could not participate in the 2018 election campaign. But yesterday’s verdict turns the tables right around. The IHC ruling is not just a political and legal win for the PML-N and Maryam Nawaz; it now means that Maryam can be a bona-fide electoral player in the country. Whether she goes for electoral politics directly is something her and her party will need to decide – given the current strategic situation the PML-N finds itself in with the establishment as well – but the verdict means there is as of now no barrier to her contesting an election, no ‘convict’ label hanging over her head anymore.

The IHC verdict can also be seen as yet another look at the way NAB used weak and barely-there cases to gun for those out of favour with the PTI government. The case against Maryam Nawaz was considered weak by lawyers and political entities alike – not for want of trying by NAB but because the premise it was based on was seen as faulty from the get go. At a time when Project Imran has boomeranged badly, and the folly of choosing short-term gains has become glaringly obvious, one hopes Pakistan’s democracy, economy, media and society are not manipulated the same way again for decisions that will leave the whole country reeling for years. Which is why it is ironic to see PTI supporters call the IHC ruling ‘NRO 2’ – when all it does is right a wrong, something transparent accountability should uphold. Most importantly, none of this should take away from real effort at the accountability process: one without vendetta and political witch hunts. The political realm is already steaming hot, with audio leaks out, promises of more audio leaks and a PTI whose three years in power are very quickly unravelling in all their vengeful glory.