A war of words has intensified after the Supreme Court of Pakistan provided a strong-worded reply to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his repeated question on disqualification. The situation will aggravate in weeks as the former prime minister plans a head-on clash with the judiciary because he believes only an offensive policy can provide relief to him and his family.
According to informed sources, the former prime minister wants a repeat of the 1999 situation, when his government was toppled by the then Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf. In other words, he intends to take the situation to a level where the army is forced to take control of the country. He thinks the establishment is behind the corruption cases and his disqualification. Sources say he is desperate to take the war to the establishment and even asked his hand-picked Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to remove Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa from his post a few weeks ago, but he refused for fear of serious consequences. Sources say if Nawaz Sharif had been the prime minister of the country, he would have sacked the army chief long ago.
Sources say the establishment had conveyed a message to Nawaz Sharif through Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi during the ruling party’s London meeting that it had not played any role in the corruption cases against him and his family or his disqualification by the Supreme Court. The establishment had also assured him that it would not interfere in his cases in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and accountability courts at any stage. It also promised to remain neutral if the Hudaibiya money laundering and Model Town cases reopen and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was included in investigations.
After the London meeting, the Sharif family fed fake reports to the media that Shahbaz Sharif would be the party’s candidate for the prime minister’s post in the next election. The reports aimed to create an impression that the Sharif family was united and the leadership of the party would remain in the family. The Sharif family understands that problems for Shahbaz Sharif will increase as he is the main accused in the Hudaibiya and Model Town cases, which have been pending for years. In this situation, the Sharif family believes confrontation with the judiciary and the army is the only option that can pave the way for any kind of relief to it. It is said Nawaz Sharif had conveyed to the establishment that he was ready to quit politics and renounce his policy of confrontation if his daughter Maryam Nawaz and brother Shahbaz Sharif were spared cases against them. He wants Musharraf-like relief for the Sharif family, under which cases were frozen. However, he was informed that only courts could provide such relief.
Signs of a pitched battle between the Sharif family and the Supreme Court can already be seen. Pakistan Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, reacting to sharp criticism of the judiciary, observed that the court deserved appreciation for observing restraint on derogatory comments. Earlier, the court provided a strong-worded reply to Nawaz Sharif, which some said was below the dignity of the court. In its detailed order on rejection of pleas of the Sharif family in the Panama case, the court said the ousted prime minister tried to fool the court and the people, both inside and outside the Parliament, and never came up before the court with the whole truth. “Nawaz Sharif even tried to fool the court without realizing that you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time,” it observed.
In its reaction, the ruling party and the Sharif family made their intentions clear that they want a full-blown war. In a press release, the party rejected the “inappropriate and derogatory words” against Nawaz Sharif and said, “Whatever was said about the three-time prime minister falls short of the court’s standards. The detailed judgment is a very unfortunate example of malice, hostility, anger and provocation from beginning to the end.” The statement also used unusually harsh language to criticise the Supreme Court for being unable to deliver justice and accused judges of taking oath of allegiance to bandits in the past. Nawaz Sharif said the judges were biased against him and he had no hope of justice from them. He said the judgment was another dark chapter in Pakistan’s history. His daughter, Maryam Nawaz, said it was not Nawaz Sharif but justice that had been targeted in the verdict.
As the Sharif family has turned the heat on the institutions to save itself from jail, legislators of the ruling party have panicked and started looking for options, because they think the party would sink with the Sharif family if it continued with its policy of confrontation. They are right in thinking that no party or person can survive in the country by clashing with state institutions. It is an open secret that at least 40 PML-N MNAs are ready to join the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan and over 120 are in the camp of former Interior Minister Nisar Ali but they will formally announce it after Nawaz Sharif is jailed in few weeks. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi can also dissolve the National Assembly in weeks to avert a crisis and pave the way for early elections.