No reprieve for Sharifs

It didn’t come out of the blue. Maryam Nawaz, the political heir apparent of incarcerated former premier Nawaz Sharif, has once again been arrested and sent to prison. This time she was being investigated in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case and that her assets were not compatible with her sources of income.

Nawaz Sharif meanwhile has been languishing in jail with no reprieve in sight. There are strong speculations that a deal, that could secure his release and send the family packing abroad, is in the works. Shehbaz Sharif, a pacifist compared to his confrontational brother, is playing a key role in the latter’s possible release.

The terms of such a deal could be devastating and end the political status of the PML-N, a condition which the Sharif family is not willing to accept. The party is the largest in the opposition and secured millions of votes in the general elections but is now vulnerable. The next hearing of the case is scheduled on October 7, and until then it needs to be seen what agreements can be made behind closed doors.

Prime Minister Imran Khan himself opposes such a deal to the Sharifs. After all, Imran had strongly campaigned on the accountability of those involved in corruption and embezzlement, targeting the Sharif family specifically, and cannot be seen as handing out any relaxation. Imran’s political success will depend more on him keeping his promise of accountability rather than economic achievements.

Nawaz also realises that if he accepts such a deal, the PTI will sweep the next elections. Nawaz no longer has much to lose; he has been disqualified as prime minister and barred from contesting elections for life, and his party has lost hold in Punjab which it governed for ten years.

His beloved passed away without him by her side, sons have been declared absconders as they hide in the UK, and his daughter sits in a cell. Many party leaders are either in custody or being investigated.

The PML-N has denied that any deal is being offered or that Nawaz Sharif will accept it. Now the party has been portraying him and Maryam as the victims, decrying a smear campaign and political victimisation against them. However, Maryam lacks political experience and has launched verbal attacks against state institutions. It is only Nawaz Sharif who can rescue that sinking PML-N but for that, he needs to come out of prison.

The future of the PML-N is at stake and efforts being made to send the government home have been ineffective. Many parties have balked at the possibility of any unconstitutional steps knowing it may eventually affect them.

Nawaz is known to taking risks without weighing its consequences, and his attempts to be a prime minister with real powers led to his fall. There has been no politician in Pakistan’s history that has been more fortunate than Nawaz Sharif and none that has been more unfortunate than him.

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