Will Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz return to Pakistan to serve their respective 10 and seven year prison sentences? And will their return improve their chances in the upcoming general election on July 25?
Analysts said the verdict of the dramatic Avenfield case would damage the PML-N's campaign, as the less charismatic Shahbaz Sharif seeks to fend off the challenge by Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and other parties.
The ruling has put Sharif in a “difficult position”, agreed analyst Rasool Bukhsh Rais.
“If Sharif does not come back, his party is over. If he comes back, he will have to fight cases and he will be suffering a lot — but in this way he will save his party.”
“No matter what the PML-N says, the decision is going to damage their vote bank,” analyst Rifaat Hussain told AFP, adding that he thought it unlikely Sharif would return.
Recent surveys show that up to 22 per cent of Pakistani voters are undecided ahead of July 25 (election day), he said, and with further serious allegations of corruption against the PML-N leadership there is little chance of Sharif mobilising the “sympathy factor” after the verdict to draw those voters in.
Analyst Mazhar Abbas says that while Sharif recovered from the disqualification blow, the journey from July 6 (today) till July 25 is more difficult.
"If Nawaz Sharif returns, will PML-N workers reach the airport? Will PML-N make a call for protest? Because now the judiciary has decided against them and announced their verdict. All eyes are on Shahbaz. Will his tone be soft? Will he reflect surrender?"
Journalist Talat Hussain on Geo said the verdict is predictable, as it was obvious that Nawaz and Maryam would be sentenced to prison.
"People are divided on whether this [conviction] should have happened or not, but there are some voters who are still on the fence about who to vote for. The dilemma of the undecided voter is not over. When we read the 100 pages of the verdict, things will emerge on a daily basis. We are hearing reports of Nawaz Sharif returning on Tuesday or Wednesday... that is when we can predict how this will influence voters."
Journalist Sohail Warraich said the conviction of Nawaz and Maryam will politically benefit Imran Khan. "As per survey results, the 20% of people who are undecided may find it easy to make a decision after this verdict. If Nawaz Sharif returns to confront this reality, his vote bank may improve. But the verdict has sealed one thing: a Nawaz government is out of the question."