Nawaz Between Prison and Deal: Supporters Convert Jail Surrender to Victory Parade

Commentators argue Pakistan’s criminal justice system and political field are not strong enough to keep someone like convicted former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in jail for long

PKONWEB Report – PMLN workers and leadership on Tuesday turned party supremo Nawaz Sharif’s surrender to jail authorities, as mandated by Supreme Court order of March 26, into a victory parade; akin to a King or general, returning home after a decisive victory over the enemy.

While Punjab’s Kot Lakhpat Jail authorities had delivered written orders to Sharif in Jati Umrah (his home in outskirts of Lahore) requiring his surrender to the authorities before sunset, Nawaz did not surrender till past midnight. Rana Sana Ullah, President PML(N) Punjab, former minister for law and interior, thundered on TV screens that Nawaz has the right to surrender till midnight. Nawaz, however, took another hour after midnight to finally surrender to jail officials. Political commentators on the electronic media argued that delay was deliberate to allow workers to gather for show of power – but till the end numbers remained unimpressive, most said.

Maryam Aurangzeb, the former Information Minister of Pakistan and now spokesperson of PML (N), in an interview with AAP News, stated that owing to the deteriorating health of Mr. Sharif, the party will continue to seek legal remedy for his immediate release. Aurangzeb went on to warn that PMLN will soon be launching a massive movement, after Eid, to protest the high inflation and incompetency of the present (PTI-led) government.

According to one independent observer, and a legal expert, while PMLN leadership continues to talk of serious health condition of Nawaz Sharif, events of past six weeks have weakened this argument. Despite Supreme Court’s unprecedented decision to grant bail to Nawaz Sharif, a convicted person, on health grounds the former premiere occasionally visited Sharif Hospital, his family owned hospital, for few hours and did not undergo any medical or surgical procedures. Nawaz’s attorneys had made the case before Supreme Court that government is not letting Nawaz seek proper medical treatment of his own choice. But Nawaz’s demonstrated failure to seek any serious treatment over the past six weeks has now weakened the narrative earlier shaped by his family and party.

Another keen observer of Pakistan politics said the Supreme Court, in its March 26 decision, had provided that Nawaz can seek an extension in his 6-weeks bail through Islamabad High Court; but it was mandatory for him to first surrender himself to jail authorities. Sharif’s attorneys however filed a review application in the Supreme Court on April 30, seeking an extension on the six-week bail until the decision on the review petition that sought permission for Mr. Sharif to leave the country for medical care. Both the pleas seeking extension on bail period and permission to seek medical care abroad were however rejected by the Supreme Court on May 3.

“Let’s not call it deal or plea bargain or NRO; Restitution is a common legal practice followed worldwide post-conviction” – Dual national Pakistani

Concurrent with court’s decision to send Sharif back to the prison, and his attorneys losing legal arguments in the courts for permanent bail, there are strong rumors of a post-conviction plea bargain. Some pundits argued on TV that payments were to be made to the state through friends in the Middle East.

The quid pro quo however remains one stumbling block, background discussions reveal.

There is also (apparently) a growing-split within the Sharif family that has become a major hindrance in the resolution of the matter, even though PMLN remains a formidable force in Punjab- the country’s largest province and its bastion of power.

Sources say Nawaz sons Hassan and Hussain Sharif (British nationals), now control family finances and have blatantly refused to pay restitution to the State.

Political commentators, citing sources inside PMLN, argue that while, Nawaz Sharif’s mother favors a deal with the State for seeking Nawaz’s freedom, Maryam (daughter and heir apparent of Nawaz), favors fighting a battle out through political means, mass mobilization of supporters, etc. included.

PMLN has also decided to join politico-religious leader Maulana Fazal ur Rehman and Zardari-Bilawal led PPP in a protest movement after Ramadan, sources reveal.

“Toppling the government is not our target” though, said one top trusted party leader very close to three-times Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who stands convicted in Panamagate case related matters.

One political observer on condition of anonymity said that Pakistan is a Cash-strapped and economically hit country, and “needs those people to step up who swallowed public monies while in power”

A professional of middle-class background, the Pakistani expat (not a dual national) moved back from UK in 2007 “burning all his boats”, he said.