The Sharifs’ uncertain political fate

Mazhar Abbas

Islamabad: As for the first time, Joint Investigation Team, has summoned Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, for July 5th in what many described as all important investigation, the challenges for the Sharifs is double to save the family as well as the party, which some critic believe, is over, but defiant PML-N leaders doubted.

The Sharifs have survived many challenges in the past, even worst political crisis in 1999, what if they are facing today a very different. In the next 10 days, much would be clear about the JIT, as it would complete its report which, many believe, would also have consequences on the future politics.

It may be a coincidence that Maryam Nawaz has been called on July 5th, the day many Pakistanis observed as Black Day, as 40 years back on this very day, martial law was imposed in 1977. Ironically, it also gave birth to the political career of the Sharifs.

If the JIT also called Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, in regard to his ‘confessional statement, which he said, was taken under duress by Musharraf’s NAB, the JIT would complete its ‘scrutiny’ of the Sharif’s wealth and money trail, which is under question in Panama case.

The report would then be submitted to the three members of Special bench of the Supreme Court, which in due course would finalize its ‘verdict.’ Many believe this judgment would also decide the final fate of the Sharifs in politics.

The only family member, who has not been summoned or not likely to face any such situation, is Kulsoom Nawaz. Besides, Nawaz Sharif himself, those who faced JIT, include his sons Hussain Nawaz (five times), Hasan Nawaz (two times), son-in-law Safdar and brother Shahbaz Sharif. However, the members of Shahbaz family have been out of the probe.

The findings of the JIT would be historic and could also create history of a political family, which remains in power since 1985, particularly in the Punjab, even if they lost in the center.

The Sharifs already questioned the JIT, and expressed reservations particularly in the post-Hussain Nawaz’s photo leak. While PM Sharif looked in defiant mood, as I had written earlier, he so far lacked much political support from other parties. Even his closest ally, JUI-F Fazlur Rahman, for the first time indicated that he was facing a difficult case and would wait for its final verdict.

This will be the first ever appearance of Maryam Nawaz before any judicial forum since she made inroads into politics since the days of Musharraf. She is the one who saw the fate of her father under Musharraf, when an Anti-Terrorism Court, convicted him for life. She along with her mother was present in the court in Karachi.

In the post conviction development, it was she who, many believe, was instrumental in getting support of Saudi kingdom and finally rescued the family for political exit for 10 years. The family including the Sharifs denied and said they were forced to leave, as Musharraf wanted both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif out of politics.  But this is a different situation where the Sharifs have to get clean chit for keeping their politics alive and legacy to follow.

Maryam is the one PM has always looked as the one who will carry his legacy as Benazir successfully led until she was physically removed on December 27th, 2007.

Nawaz himself and Maryam herself know importance of this case and what kind of questions she might be facing before the JIT on July 5th. While the PML-N leaders criticized the JIT for calling Maryam as they believe her name was not mentioned in the SC five members order, the JIT is fully empowered to call anyone from within and outside the family, who is linked to this case.

While main opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and its Chairman Imran Khan looked quite optimistic about the final verdict, which he believes would pay the way for his party’s landslide victory in the next elections, the biggest task for the Sharifs is the post-verdict scenario.

Nawaz knows that it would not be easy for him to keep the party intact in case anything happens to him, Shahbaz and Maryam. Since Maryam is not an elected representative, she may now be facing the constitutional exit as not being ‘Sadiq and Ameen,’ her political future hangs in balance.

Knowing Maryam’s emotional attachment with Nawaz Sharif, it would be a very difficult situation for the family. While many PML-N leaders, including someone like Kh Saad Rafiq, hinted that some forces are working on minus-Sharifs formula, it would not be acceptable to the PML-N.

The question is how the party will survive in such a scenario in the next elections and in case of adverse decision who will lead the party.

Bhutto’s PPP survived because of the strong will and political vision of Benazir. But PPP which faced many difficult eras finally saw its downfall in 2013 and is finding difficult to bounce back.

The Sharifs survived Musharraf era as the electorate rejected Musharraf’s forced exit of Benazir and Nawaz. Today, the situation is different as Sharif is in power and the prime minister, facing a case which comes up as a result of international leak i.e. Panama, in which his sons’ names were mentioned.

Thus, the case cannot be termed a part of any ‘conspiracy’ and if there is one which Sharif hinted when he appeared before the JIT, no one knows. Even if there exists one such theory, he still has to satisfy the Supreme Court, about questions which two of the three judges already not satisfied and declared him ‘disqualified’ while everyone awaits final observation of the other three judges, who constituted the JIT. Therefore, it is time for the Sharifs to work out post-Panama strategy on how to keep the party intact and bring themselves out of trouble.

This writer is the senior columnist and analyst of GEO, The News and Jang.

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO

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