The sun shines upon the House of Sharif

Just as with the Avenfield conviction, its overturning is consistent with the politics of the day, the flow of power and influence which had once ebbed.
Published September 29, 2022

The Avenfield reference against Maryam Nawaz was always one that fit better in a crime novel than it did within the conventional frame of criminal law. There was a doctored trust deed with her name on it, and television sound bites she gave of how she was absolutely landless.

Yet she was sent to prison, for abetting the sins of her father, with the accountability court ruling that the Sharif family was in fact a “monolith”, referring to daughter Maryam and sons Hussain and Hassan Nawaz and their father, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

The same verdict declared that Maryam was “instrumental in concealment of the properties of her father”, adding that she “aided, assisted, abetted, attempted and acted in conspiracy with her father”.

The sins of her father were themselves unidentified; just that their fruit were too plentiful and he could not account for his assets. Judge Muhammad Bashir, who these days affords protective bail to Ishaq Dar despite having declared him a proclaimed offender during the hybrid era, felt that Maryam was “instrumental in concealment of the properties of her father”.

Then came the appellate process, and the sun shone slightly through the hybrid clouds but they didn’t part. We saw Justice Shaukat Siddiqi explain how a senior uniformed officer pressured him to deny Maryam and her father bail, or two years’ worth of effort would be wasted.

This comment lost Justice Siddiqi his seat, but it didn’t even lead to the senior officer being asked to answer on oath, let alone blemish his career. We also saw Judge Arshad Malik, who was part of the accountability court process, allegedly entrapped into revealing the influence upon him during the trials of Nawaz sharif and Co., and then admit on oath that he was under external duress during the trial.

In fact, ever since her conviction, Maryam’s lawyers have been approaching the appellate courts, citing the various shortcomings in the manner, mode and method of conviction. During Thursday’s hearing presided over by Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, the bench too raised concerns over the NAB’s inability to prove the crime.

“If they [Sharifs] admit while standing in the rostrum that they owned the properties, even then the prosecution has to prove [the case against them],” Justice Farooq said during the hearing, adding that the NAB’s case may be valid, but it had failed to prove it.

With the Islamabad High Court (IHC) setting aside Maryam and her husband’s conviction, the sun now shines upon the House of Sharif.

It is only fitting that Maryam’s conviction is overturned, for want of connection between the circumstantial evidence and the alleged crime. In other cases, which under hybrid clouds seemed open and shut, the NAB no longer seeks her passport or her presence.

One rule of Pakistani justice emerges, similar to the study of economics; a clear picture never emerges without looking at it through the prism of politics.

Just as with the conviction, the overturning is consistent with the politics of the day, the flow of power and influence which had once ebbed. It is unsurprising, and would have only mattered if it had not come with such predictable timing.

As for Pakistan’s most famous non-cricketing captain, the less said the better. He was sent to jail for not cooperating with the NAB and being a general nuisance. Many in the PML-N would consider the latter punishment warranted.