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November 21, 2019

Nawaz Sharif’s second departure from Pakistan


November 21, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Both the high-profile departures of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from Pakistan now and back in December 2000 happened for different reasons when he had been sentenced by courts and his convictions have been challenged in superior judicial forums.

This time, the Lahore High Court (LHC) provided him relief despite stiff opposition by the government, which had, however, allowed him to go out of Pakistan for medical treatment but only after fulfilling the strict politically important condition of submitting an Rs7.5b indemnity bond that he refused to meet.

The total value to be mentioned in this paper was to match the amounts of fine and other financial implications of accountability court judgement, which is yet to attain finality after adjudication by the superior judiciary particularly the Supreme Court.

The sentencing verdict of the accountability court headed by Judge Muhammad Bashir was suspended by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and Nawaz Sharif was bailed out while he is on an eight-week bail on medical grounds in the other conviction imposed by the trial court presided by Judge Irshad Malik. It was reported that the controversial judge is facing disciplinary proceedings due to his role in the video scandal but nothing is known about any movement forward in this connection.

The only reason behind Nawaz Sharif’s instant exit from Pakistan is his extremely deteriorated health condition due to several serious diseases. He was hospitalised in a critical condition where he did not improve and remained in a dismal state with doctors constantly sounding alarm bells about his health.

They recommended his treatment abroad where the required facilities, missing in Pakistan, are available. He will undeniably return permitting his health and certification by doctors that he is fit to travel back home.

In December, 2000, the ex-premier had been convicted by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) of Karachi in the trumped up plane hijacking case during Pervez Musharraf’s martial law. The military ruler wanted Nawaz Sharif to go away from Pakistan’s political scene because Begum Kulsoom Nawaz had made his life hard due to her relentless aggressive politics in the wake of incarceration of all the members of the Sharif family, including her spouse and Shahbaz Sharif.

Musharraf wished to rule in peace, which was not possible in the presence of Begum Kulsoom on the political landscape and Nawaz Sharif in jail as he thought they would continue to create difficulties for him. After the Sharif family’s leaving Pakistan, he did rule comfortably as he had no formidable political opponent left to challenge him.

Over the past nineteen years, a lot of water has gone under the bridge for the former prime minister. During the military rule, he was willing to be exiled. This time, he reluctantly agreed to fly out of Pakistan due to his worsening health only after his close family members unremittingly persuaded him to depart for abroad for treatment.

Although his condition continued to be terrible, he was unprepared to enter into any deal with the Imran Khan government or any other. And he did not do any compromise and is leaving Pakistan courtesy of the LHC order based on the medical reports prepared by senior government doctors.

During his exile in Saudi Arabia, Nawaz Sharif made a concerted effort to come back to Pakistan during Musharraf’s era to resume his political activities back home, but he was bundled back from the Islamabad airport and was not permitted to enter the homeland. After Benazir Bhutto flew back in October 2007 ending her self-exile, the former prime minister too returned despite strong opposition by the military dictator in November 2007. It was then stated that since she has staged a comeback, Nawaz Sharif can’t be prevented from returning. At the time, his conviction in the plane hijacking case held the field, therefore, he did not contest the general elections scheduled in 2007, which were postponed in the wake of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. A couple of years later, the sentence passed against the former premier and his disqualification caused by it were undone by the Supreme Court.

While in the heart of his hearts, Musharraf desired Nawaz Sharif out of Pakistan, this time the ex-prime minister’s political detractors equally forcefully wanted his exit from the country on account of his health condition because they believed that if anything extreme happened to him, they would not only be held responsible but their politics would be gone.

Due to Nawaz Sharif’s absence from Pakistan for a long time, his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was dismembered through unseemly tactics and the PML-Q was midwifed out of it. Although it was split, its public appeal hardly dwindled even slightly, a fact proven at the husting. However, it could bag only over a dozen national seats in the highly manipulated 2002 parliamentary polls.

For the past three years, Nawaz Sharif has been faced with a host of intense investigations, judicial trials and imprisonment. But the PML-N has not only been intact but has become strong and popular. It was because his policy that it was able to secure a large number of national and provincial seats becoming the single largest party in the Punjab Assembly in the 2018 elections.

Questions are being raised about the future of the PML-N in the former prime minister’s absence from Pakistan. However, it is obvious and clear to everybody that despite his incarceration and waned health, he has been effectively controlling it, keeping it as a unified entity. He will continue to have a firm grip over it.