Bail for Maryam

Published November 6, 2019

THE scales of justice are finally inclined in favour of the Sharif family. Only a few days after her father was temporarily released from jail, Maryam Nawaz has also been granted bail. She was being held by NAB in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case since August.

Well-wishers of the Sharif family had been insisting that Ms Nawaz needed to be by the side of her hospitalised father. Many might have seen the petition for Ms Nawaz’s release on bail as an appeal on humanitarian grounds — in the same way that Mian Nawaz Sharif was recently given an eight-week suspension in his detention for health reasons.

However, granting her bail on Monday, the Lahore High Court made it clear that it had decided the case on its merit. The two-member bench took note of the rampant corruption in the country and stressed on the need to curb this with an ‘iron hand’. But it ruled that it “… cannot keep its eyes off the legal proposition that bail cannot be withheld as a punishment …”.

The judges observed that otherwise the court would “transgress into the power of the trial court to return its finding upon guilt on the basis of evidence”. The Lahore High Court did consider previous judgements where relief had been extended to women petitioners who had “neither absconded nor obstructed the process of law”.

The court, while giving relief to Ms Nawaz, asked her to submit her passport to the court officials — which was an anti-climax for those operating the rumour mills. The country had been abuzz with predictions that both Mr Sharif and Ms Nawaz were to ‘soon’ fly away quietly to some foreign destination. Their absence was thought essential to clear the field for the remaining PML-N leaders, their opponents and, most significantly, the ‘establishment’, to engage with one another in a way that best suited them. The rumours about the father-daughter duo’s ‘impending’ flight from the country persist, with an attending doctor saying on Tuesday that Mr Sharif needed to undergo genetic tests that can only be conducted abroad.

The news that Ms Nawaz was not setting off post-haste to a destination abroad necessitated changes in these imaginative scenarios about her departure.

In the ensuing phase, bets are being placed on whether or not Ms Nawaz is going to join Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s protest in Islamabad. There are many who expect her to celebrate her release from jail by raising a battle cry expanding on her father’s image of resistance, and as a reiteration of her promise to not compromise under adverse circumstances.

In reality, these wishes may be premature. Her uncle, Shahbaz Sharif, has been telling everyone that Ms Nawaz was needed to take care of her seriously ill father. For the time being at least, this is what she may want to concentrate on.

Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2019

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