Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif leaves the Supreme Court after the land case hearing in Islamabad on December 4, 2018. Photo: AFP/Farooq Naeem
Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif leaves the Supreme Court after a land case hearing in Islamabad on December 4, 2018. Photo: AFP/Farooq Naeem

In an important development on Monday, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) dismissed a petition from former prime minister Nawaz Sharif seeking bail on medical grounds. A two-member bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani ruled that the petition lacked merit. They concluded that Sharif is already receiving the best medical treatment and that he does not have a life-threatening condition. In its nine-page verdict, the bench stated that Sharif filed the application on medical grounds only and observed that he was taken to a hospital when he complained about his health.

Pundits got it wrong

Many political pundits and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) senior leadership thought Sharif would be given relief in the form of bail by the IHC.

Political analysts and TV anchors who are influenced by the invisible forces and the leadership of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party made a fuss about a deal they said had been struck between Sharif and the invisible forces and as a result, he would be granted bail. However, it did not happen and after his plea for bail was dismissed by the court, Sharif decided to return to jail from Jinnah Hospital in Lahore where he had been admitted 10 days earlier.

This clearly shows that despite his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif’s efforts, the fences between the powers that be and Nawaz Sharif are not mended, and the establishment is working on the same old strategy of removing him and his daughter, Maryam Nawaz, from the political picture.

This strategy was introduced in the early 2000s by then-dictator General Pervez Musharraf, who offered to let Shahbaz return from exile and join the political proceedings, leaving his brother in Saudi Arabia. However, this did not work out. Then, in 2014, the establishment again tried to force Nawaz Sharif to resign and leave the political horizon, but he resisted and refusal to resign even after a protest led by Imran Khan and backed by the establishment, which jeopardized the whole country for 126 days.

Since then, Sharif and his daughter have been under fire from the establishment, which remains the main hindrance to his release from jail. It has to be remembered that Sharif was disqualified from the office of prime minister in the Avenfield apartment case, but the same IHC suspended the decision against Sharif and observed that the anti-graft National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was not able to prove any allegations against Sharif and his daughter.

In Pakistan a rift with the establishment can lead to the hanging of a popular leader like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and force Benazir Bhutto to remain in self-exile, and now Sharif has been taught a lesson by being sent to jail over a very weak allegation.

There is not a single case of corruption against Sharif relating to the mega-infrastructure projects and power plants he built. This shows how easy it is for the invisible forces to brainwash the masses through around-the-clock propaganda that a particular political party or politician is corrupt and that the establishment is a “sacred cow” while the parties or politicians it supports are “angels.”

Double standards

The former dictator and army chief Pervez Musharraf, who was facing a treason trial for abrogating the constitution and arresting Supreme Court judges, was first taken to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC), where he spent a few weeks, and no civilian institution was able to ask him to appear before the court, and then he was discreetly sent abroad.

At that point in time, Musharraf had not had open-heart surgery like Sharif, nor was he suffering from diabetes or high cholesterol like Sharif. Likewise, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s sister, Aleema Khan, despite being found guilty of undeclared assets and evading tax, was not charged in any case and instead was only fined by the court.

Imran Khan’s undeclared offshore company, Niazi Services Ltd, and a foreign funding case against him and his PTI party were also insufficient to disqualify him because right now he is enjoying the patronage of the establishment and he is their blue-eyed boy for the moment, though for how long, only time will tell. Musharraf living abroad and Aleema Khan and her brother enjoying the perks and privileges of being in the good books of the establishment is evidence that Sharif has been the recipient of a double standard of justice and is being subjected to humiliating treatment as punishment for his narrative of civilian supremacy and challenging the status quo.

Political legend

When General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq ousted prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977 in a military coup and eventually hanged him, neither he nor his partners in the military establishment at that time knew they would be making Bhutto a political legend. This legend still lives on in the province of Sindh and still attracts votes for Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party.

It was in 1987, when Bhutto’s daughter Benazir took the oath as the first female prime minister of Pakistan and in the Islamic world, that the establishment realized that by hanging Zulfikar Bhutto they had made him a legend that would never die, especially in Sindh. But it forgot this lesson quickly, and when in 1999 Musharraf ousted then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif through a military coup, he tried his best to use the courts to award Sharif the death penalty in a fabricated plane-hijacking case.

Had then US president Bill Clinton, a personal friend of Sharif, not intervened through Saudi Arabia, he would have been hanged

Had then-US president Bill Clinton, a personal friend of Sharif, not intervened through Saudi Arabia, he would have been hanged, but instead he was exiled. However, Sharif returned to the country in 2007 and in 2013 he became prime minister for a third time, teaching his detractors and the establishment that the fate of elected representatives lies in the hands of the masses, not with the establishment.

Sharif has since then been a problem for the establishment, and his efforts to shape a foreign policy based on peace and progress rather than defense and proxy wars were gradually changing course and putting the invisible forces on to the back foot.

As a result, Sharif has been humiliated, defeated in elections that were rigged at the pre-poll stage, and is now languishing behind bars. His daughter is quietly and patiently trying everything she can to save her father. Maryam is actually giving us a glimpse of the late Benazir Bhutto, as she also stood rock-solid when her father Zulfikar was victimized.

Sharif will be the winner regardless of what happens to him in prison. He will always remain alive as a political legend – like Zulfikar Bhutto – and he will prevail over his detractors if he is released. Either way, we are witnessing the making of a political legend whose anti-establishment narrative is popular in the only pro-establishment province of the country, Punjab.

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