What next for Nawaz?

Published October 11, 2022

FORMER PM Nawaz Sharif wants to return home to lead his party in the next elections. The only obstacles stopping him from coming back are his 2018 conviction and lifetime disqualification by the Supreme Court in an ‘assets beyond means’ case.

His prerecorded, ‘heart-to-heart’ interview aired on Sunday focused mostly on the pain he and his family had to go through during his days in jail along with his daughter while his wife lay on her deathbed in London.

Yet the underlying message is clear: the controversial judgement against him is flawed, politically motivated and ‘revenge-based’, and meant to banish him from politics forever. Beyond that, he wants the judges to right the wrong done to him and invalidate his conviction, and consequently, lifelong disqualification. None of what he has stated in the interview is new.

It is just a reiteration of what the former prime minister and his party have been saying ever since he was indicted in the Panama Papers case while still in office.

The interview’s contents also confirm that the narrative he and his party are trying to build in the changed political environment carries only mild references to the role of the establishment in his ouster and conviction.

With his party leading the coalition at the centre and Imran Khan out of favour with the establishment, it was but expected. Still, the question remains: will the new narrative work in Mr Sharif’s favour despite a change in the PML-N’s fortunes, and will the judges reverse his conviction? Maryam Nawaz’s acquittal in the Avenfield case and the Supreme Court chief justice’s remarks against lifelong disqualification are hopeful signs for Mr Sharif.

Yet no matter how strong his narrative, it won’t be easy for him to get relief as there is a perception that some decisions in cases involving politicians seem to have been person-specific. If the PML-N supremo wants to come back, he shouldn’t wait for his conviction to be reversed. His presence in the country will help him more than any narrative he builds abroad.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2022

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