THE choice is before former prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif. He can continue to take refuge in the advice of his London-based medical consultant or return home to face the legal charges against him. The Islamabad High Court has provided a reason for his return by issuing a non-bailable warrant for his arrest on Tuesday. A greater cause may be waiting for him in the echelons of power in Pakistan — over and above the protective shield his lieutenants have tried to build around him against any attempt to forcibly bring him back. What was medical leave then has since turned into self-exile, and any attempt at absconding in the eye of the law will also be seen as wilful absence from his political task. Those who want Mr Sharif back legally wonder why he isn’t in a hospital undergoing examination and treatment. This might sound cruel to some but then politics is not for the faint-hearted or those who become addicted to the luxuries that often accompany success in the profession. A battery of PML-N leaders may go on pressing for their leader’s right to avail the best treatment abroad — but this will be at the risk of losing crucial space during an uncertain phase.
The mystery regarding Mr Sharif’s health condition appears to be having a debilitating effect on the personality that was in the making after his removal from power. The image is in contrast to his vows of resistance after he quit under a court decree in July 2017. There are no two ways about it. Either he can resume the refrain that he is being targeted as part of a selective accountability drive or he can choose a life on the sidelines, passing on the mantle of leadership to someone he deems capable. Or his sympathisers can continue to project how an under-duress, ailing man is being treated by a ‘vengeful’ system. It is an old formula that some may see as his best option.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2020