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Tuesday December 06, 2022

Maryam’s triumph

October 04, 2022

Rarely has a woman endured the kind of hardship, intimidation and brutality that Maryam Nawaz faced over several years at the hands of a fascist regime that considered her the most potent opposition leader in the country.

That intimidation and brutality included the filing of trumped-up cases, references, hundreds of court appearances and even two jail terms. And she was not the only one targeted. Her entire family – Mian Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif, Hamza Shahbaz and several others – were targeted in an effort to eliminate the entire Sharif family from the political spectrum of the country. Yet nothing deterred her from pursuing her political narrative in the larger national interest. In fact, the more they targeted Maryam, the more her resolve to fight back. Her decision to come back from the safety of London while her mother was in a critical condition in the hospital, to go to jail in July 2018, showed unprecedented courage and belief in her struggle to fight the forces of fascism.

There is no such parallel of a father and daughter willingly coming home to go to jail. The dignity with which Maryam Nawaz carried herself on that day is now part of our history. Those images of Maryam stepping out of the plane with Mian Nawaz Sharif are still fresh in the minds of millions of Pakistanis. Her bravery and courage were evident despite the very hostile environment outside the plane.

The case dragged on for years even though there was no merit in it. This was known to those who conspired to initiate the case against her, including the NAB prosecutors who found it impossible to justify her conviction. Of course, the case against her and her subsequent conviction was only because Maryam was not only the daughter of Mian Nawaz Sharif but someone who was ready to carry forward the political legacy of her father.

As the Islamabad High Court gave the decision in Maryam Nawaz’s favour last week and set aside her conviction, it is worth recalling her political struggle against a brutal regime that wanted to impose a one-party fascist state in the country. It is important to recall the events not just to showcase what Maryam Nawaz went through but also to put it in an historical perspective.

The Panama leaks case was fabricated to overthrow the legally elected government of Mian Nawaz Sharif. The process to remove Mian Nawaz Sharif started much before the Panama leaks. Dharna 2014 failed miserably despite a 126-day standoff in Islamabad. Dawn Leaks was another failed attempt. Finally came the Panama leaks. There was nothing in the Panama leaks as later events confirmed, but it was projected in the media as a mega corruption case involving money laundering, tax evasion, kickbacks, misuse of public office etc.

As the conspirators struggled to find any reasonable evidence against Mian Nawaz Sharif over the course of several months of investigation, there was only embarrassment for the perpetrators of the case when the former PM was disqualified for life but only on the basis of not showing a salary receivable from his son’s company. Only Black’s Law Dictionary was referred to in the judgment because no Pakistani law was violated. Interestingly, the company – through which he was to receive a salary – had been closed; as such it does not form a receivable from any accounting or financial standpoint. There were about 450 Pakistanis named in the Panama leaks. No case has ever been registered or initiated against any of the other 449 Pakistanis. This in itself confirms that the case against Mian Nawaz Sharif was only politically motivated (Mian Nawaz Sharif’s name was not even in the list of 450 Pakistanis listed).

As part of Maryam Nawaz’s team, I have witnessed her entire struggle since the day she returned to Pakistan on July 13, 2018. Being part of her team meant visiting her during court appearances, her political rallies and jalsas around the length and breath of Pakistan. The crowds were so overwhelming everywhere that it would take several hours before she would be able to reach the jalsa destination. Starting in the afternoon from Lahore, she would finally reach the jalsa destination at 3am or even around Fajar time. People still waited. Back in 2019, there was a complete blackout on the media about Maryam’s political events. Yet, it never made any difference.

We saw close range how people in the millions lined up as she moved from one city or town to another. How hundreds and thousands would wait hours to listen to her speeches and how people enthusiastically reacted when she challenged those sitting in the power corridors. In the process, Maryam was transformed from a daughter struggling to help her father’s cause to becoming the most potent political leader in her own right.

Her class and elegance had made her look like a princess before the political victimization was unleashed in 2018; that was the only side we knew about Maryam Nawaz. Therefore, visiting her for the first time in jail on July 20, 2018, there was natural apprehension, nervousness and hesitancy on our part. But there she was alongside Mian Nawaz Sharif and her husband Capt Safdar with all the grace and dignity she naturally possessed. She looked more confident than any of the party workers visiting her. She had not lost any of her courage and resolve.

As I came out of the jail that day, I knew she would endure any persecution, intimidation and threats but not give up on her principled stand. Over the last four years, Maryam Nawaz has sacrificed everything – from a normal family life to her inability to travel abroad to meet her father and brothers. Despite this hardship, she lost none of her resolve over the years as she went through the various stages of her political struggle. She has made everyone proud with her politics of resistance and defiance and added her name to the list of those who courageously championed the cause of democracy and supremacy of the constitution. Well done, Maryam Nawaz.

The writer is the spokesperson for Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz, and former governor Sindh. He tweets @Real_MZubair

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