New Age Islam
Wed Oct 28 2020, 01:27 AM

Current Affairs ( 6 Jul 2018, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Nawaz’s Question, ‘Mujhe Kyun Nikala?’, Is Only Going To Become Louder Because Of The Avenfield Verdict

By Luavut Zahid

July 7, 2018

The storm that has enveloped the Sharif family began only a few months ago, and the speed at which justice has been served is remarkable for a country like Pakistan. But is this the end for the Sharif family or is there another purple patch in the works?

To recap, the Avenfield reference is one of three references that were filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) subsequent to the Panama Papers verdict. With the ruling on Friday, the accountability court has sentenced Nawaz Sharif to ten years in jail, in addition to another year for not complying with the NAB investigation. Maryam Nawaz has been given a seven-year sentence, and her husband, Captain Safdar, is also facing a year’s worth of jail time. The property in question is being confiscated by the government; Nawaz has been fined £8 million and Maryam £2 million, respectively.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif lost his golden throne with Panama, and after the current verdict, for many, he seems to have lost his political balance altogether. However, the reality is that despite the Panama verdict, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) did not lose its popularity. A recent Gallup Pakistan poll shows that 34 per cent would still vote for the party. Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) stands at 26 percent, and the remaining 15 percent would choose Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). And if past trends are to be believed, Avenfield will not do much to dent these numbers.

Despite PTI’s army of handpicked electable candidates, PML-N has still managed to maintain its lead in the voter’s market. Which brings me back to the purple patch: Nawaz can at this point do one of two things. He can either return and face the court and then appeal the current decision, or he can put Shahbaz in the driver’s seat. What he cannot and likely will not do is give up.

The PML-N has spent the last few months adding fuel to the “Mujhe kyun nikala?” fire. And it is a slogan that practically came gift wrapped from the Supreme Court. Instead of having to answer for corruption, the original Panama verdict helped Nawaz tell the world he was ousted for not taking money from his own son – not corruption. Building on this, the party has infused the public with the idea that the Sharifs are being targeted because they are trying to change the system and beat the status quo (the very one they helped install and maintain for years).

Not too long after the Avenfield verdict, Maryam repeated this narrative in a tweet where she basically said that this is what happens when people fight the big bad guys, the ones with courage always go down. In a press conference soon after, the former premier announced that he will return with Maryam as soon as Kulsoom is better.

What doesn’t help matters is the selective accountability that is being practiced by our courts today. Musharraf and Kiyani are two names on the lips of almost all the people following this case. And if you look at democratic leaders, then around the time when things were heating up for Nawaz, Zardari was celebrating his acquittal from a 19-year-old graft case.

At a glance, if Nawaz says that he’s being held down by the establishment and the judiciary, there isn’t much anyone can use to argue with him. His popularity is no joke, his party’s presence isn’t to be taken lightly, and recent events and investigations all point to the uneasiness the establishment feels because of the PML-N. In his press conference today, he asked why Pakistanis should be held back by anyone after winning their freedom from the British. Yes, Nawaz is planning to return to save the country and its constitution.

Imran Khan has only now realised that you can’t win elections with money and power.. Sharif’s party has been on top of this game for a while now.

If after this, Nawaz returns to get himself arrested and appeals the case, his sacrificial narrative will only become stronger. With the establishment and judiciary against his every move, all he has are emotions to play with. And Pakistan does indeed love its martyrs.

If he returns now, he will do so from the bedside of his dying wife. When Benazir died, Pakistan voted Zardari into power – as it cursed him. What will we do when a leader seemingly sets his personal life to flames to return to save the country?

It is a great irony that in reality his return is a moot point. The real question is whether this circus will matter to Pakistan’s nascent democracy, which is often no more than a puppet show for kicks.

Luavut Zahid is a journalist based in Lahore