Maryam’s arrest  

Updated Aug 10 2019


MARYAM Nawaz’s arrest by NAB on Thursday has further raised political temperatures in the country.

NAB contends that this is a routine matter, a point of view that has been vociferously endorsed by a battery of PTI government spokespersons.

The official side relies on the principle of ‘equality before the law’ as it asserts that the latest catch includes one of Ms Nawaz’s cousins.

The accountability bureau has a simple explanation: that the arrest took place after the PML-N vice president was unable to respond in time to certain questions sent to her in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case.

The refrain has been repeated in the media just as comments abound regarding a resourceful family of the past supposedly finding its nemesis after years of avoiding the inevitable.

Going by the number of voices willing to lend themselves to this point of view, the chorus has resonated with many Pakistanis.

But then, there are other contexts not entirely alien to this land of long-running feuds that will have to be taken into account for a fair assessment of the rather surprising arrest.

Ms Nawaz’s arrest was unexpected not necessarily because of any embargo on detaining women in the country.

Contrary to what an agitated Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari would have us believe, it is quite normal for NAB and other authorities to pick up women ‘suspects’ without discrimination.

We all know that.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari could well have adopted his angry posture since he understands the potential of the arrest as a stimulus that could add impetus to the opposition’s protest against the government.

The PPP leader could have been additionally motivated to act in an unparliamentary way because of the recent allegation that his party let down the PML-N during the no-confidence move against the Senate chairman.

However, what is clearer is the fact that Ms Nawaz was doing very well in her role as a builder of public momentum against the Imran Khan government with her rallies in various parts of Punjab.

Ms Nawaz was doing a good job as a crowd-puller, although there was reluctance this time — for a variety of reasons — on the part of the media to report on a Sharif feat, as compared to instances in the past.

She was able to display to a large extent that the PML-N still had deep-rooted support among the masses, thus highlighting the breach that exists between the pro-PTI, ‘anti-corruption’ Pakistanis and those who are still willing to support the new or old faces with which the Sharifs are associated.

It is an intriguing fight that could persist for a long time.

As per Pakistani tradition, Ms Nawaz’s detention in a corruption probe might not lead to an en masse rejection of the PML-N and its politics.

Instead, it could fuel allegations of selective accountability.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2019