THE remainder of the NAB trial will continue as will the appeal against the initial conviction by the NAB court, but for now former prime minister and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif will not be held in prison. Mr Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz and his son-in-law have also been released.
The Islamabad High Court bench that ordered the prisoners’ release has not issued a full judgement recording its reasons, so at this stage it is not possible to analyse why the high court has decided that they should not be held in prison.
Yet, the NAB court verdict that sent Mr Sharif to jail in the first place was a profoundly flawed judgement and it would appear to serve the cause of justice that the high court appeal against it will be decided before more jail time is served.
Since the NAB court convicted Mr Sharif on July 6, no independent jurist or legal analyst has stepped forward to credibly defend the judgement. Courts must treat all defendants equally and should accord no preferential treatment to VIPs or national political figures, and all defendants are entitled to due process and a fair application of the law.
Now it is time for the remainder of the NAB trial and the appeal against the initial conviction to be conducted according to the highest standards of justice. A fair application of the law is all that defendants can expect, and there is clearly much room for the NAB process against Mr Sharif and his family members to improve. Beyond that, there are issues of the judicialisation of politics and the politicisation of accountability.
When the Sharif family was ensnared in the Panama Papers in April 2016, as the serving prime minister at the time, it was right that Mr Sharif submit himself to accountability first. But in the two and half years since the Panama Papers rocked the political landscape in Pakistan,
NAB has failed to establish itself as an institution that is fair and has its practices firmly rooted in the law. Indeed, from Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar to Prime Minister Imran Khan, the exhortations to NAB to act in a more restrained and lawful manner have been numerous and clear.
For the Sharif family, the high court judgement has come at a time of mourning. On all sides, politics should be put on hold in the immediate days ahead.
Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2018