Tuesday March 21, 2023

Lucky times

By Editorial Board
October 04, 2022

Maryam Nawaz seems to have finally gotten to the right side of lady luck. After an IHC verdict overturning her conviction in the Avenfield case, now a Lahore High Court full bench has ordered that Maryam Nawaz’s passport be returned to her. She had surrendered her passport to the court to get bail in a case related to the Chaudhry Sugar Mills. Her counsel had argued that in 2019, NAB had forced Maryam to surrender her passport for a grant of bail. To date, no reference has been filed in this case but her passport had been retained for three years – without any justification, per her legal team. Legal observers had also said at the time that keeping someone’s passport with a threat that their bail may be cancelled if they didn’t surrender their passport was a violation of the freedom of movement and other fundamental rights. In fact, with the quick unravelling of many of the cases that had led to the effective isolation of part of the House of Sharif from politics, old questions are once again coming to the fore: the Panama case and its judgment that relied on a legal dictionary; the matter of the surrendered passport; the Avenfield case. In all this, NAB has come across as having led charges without much substance.

The PML-N when out of power had alleged that fundamental rights do not matter if you are not on the right side of the power quarters. Their argument over the past three or four years has been that Project Imran was launched to remove the Sharifs from the power equation in the country, that fake cases were made against PML-N leaders, that trumped-up charges were levelled, and that politicians were thrown behind bars on baseless or weak cases only because Imran Khan had to be brought into power one way or the other. While many of these allegations may never really be resolved, much also remains unanswered when it comes to the details of the lead up – and the process itself – to the 2018 elections.

A luckier politician by all means, former prime minister Imran Khan too can finally put the IHC contempt case behind him after the case was discharged. While his third apology too was not what one would call completely unconditional, his visit to the court to apologize to Justice Zeba Chauhdry seems to have been deemed enough to show his intention to apologize was there. There will be the usual comparison with similar cases that were pursued against the PML-N's Danial Aziz and Talal Chaudhry among others. But the contempt case is now settled. Imran, however, still has to contend with the government's talk regarding a possible Article 6 proceeding against him. All the while, he continues to address the public and point cryptically at power stakeholders in the country that he holds responsible for his ouster. With Maryam getting her passport back, Ishaq Dar back in the finance ministry, rumours of a possible Nawaz return – the PML-N's fortunes are a far cry from what they were just a few months back. The question on everyone's minds now is: will Maryam be returning to London? More importantly, will it be a visit to see her father and bring him back or is there that eternal 'deal' – worked out to keep father and daughter away from politics and in London for an indefinite time?