LONDON PLAN OF RULING PARTY
By Arshad Sharif
Nawaz Sharif is fighting the battle of his survival. Not only his own political survival but also the financial survival of his family fearing forfeiture of his family assets in Pakistan and abroad. Ishaq Dar has already reached that stage after Chairman National Accountability Bureau, Justice (Retd) Javed Iqbal issued orders for forfeiture of assets of the Finance Minister. Legal experts opine that after Chairman NAB’s order in the case of Ishaq Dar, the principles of justce and equity demand a similar freezing order for assets of Nawaz Sharif family.
Apparently, the London huddle was to save Nawaz Sharif going on a suicidal confrontational path in which hawks in PMLN try to camouflage corruption cases in the conspiracy theories spun to blame the judiciary and the armed forces for failure of Sharifs to account for assets beyond means and known sources of income. One possible suggestion is to let younger brother Shahbaz Sharif take over the party for the time being as announced earlier. However, after Nawaz Sharif took a U-turn on his own decision, it seems difficult he would agree to the demand from within the family and the party to hand over power to his younger brother and become a sitting duck. Unless the Courts dislodge Nawaz Sharif from party leadership, he would like to stick to party leadership till then. PMLN leadership believes if Nawaz Sharif steps away from party leadership, they could manage to prevail upon the Court to delay or put in cold storage the Hudaibiya reference and the Model Town case. How PMLN thinks it could it prevail upon the independent judiciary is beyond rule of law and a plan reminiscent of the old NRO days. Independent analysts believe such an NRO is unlikely to happen now.
The peaceniks in PMLN aren’t likely to succeed as Nawaz Sharif has read the writing on the wall. Whether he gives up party leadership or not, his party is likely to break up as happened in the case of Altaf led MQM which has now multiple factions. The faction being led by Mustafa Kamal is said to have some future as more defections are on the cards from MQM Pakistan after Karachi’s deputy mayor Arshad Vohra joined the party. Some MQM Pakistan leaders are also likely to face money laundering charges for sending proceeds of charity to London and enough evidence is now available to proceed with the cases in Pakistani courts. Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has completed the investigations into money laundering of charity proceeds from Pakistan for MQM London Secretariat by some leaders who now form part of MQM Pakistan.
Nawaz Sharif knows a fate similar to Altaf led MQM awaits his party. As Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif knew the design and template and how it worked in the case of Karachi based party. No deal and only rule of law. He awaits a similar fate and the only option is to fight the battle from London or come back, face a possible arrest in due course of time and see how the party crumbles. He has decided to fight back for survival to save the empire made overseas. The links of Indian and Israeli firms with companies of Hussain and Hasan have already been identified by JIT. The secret meetings of Nawaz Sharif with Sajjan Jindal and other Indians are now part of public record. The similarities of Nawaz Sharif with MQM Chief Altaf Hussain are a strange coincidence, whether relating to charges of money laundering or suspicions of dealings with representatives of hostile countries.
Chief Minister Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, is running from pillar to post to evade cases of Model Town and Hudaibiya involving Rs1.2 billion money laundering charges. Nawaz Sharif knows that Shahbaz Sharif has only managed to delay the inevitable as the long arm of the law is grinding, slowly but surely.
It’s a matter of time when the party crumbles under its own weight for safe political future of key stalwarts like Chaudhry Nisar and others who are not facing any corruption allegations of billions like the Sharif brothers and their family.
Federal Minister Riaz Pirzada has already sounded the warning bells. Riaz Pirzada has managed to have support of a larger group with him than in July when intelligence agencies were directed by Nawaz Sharif to keep a watch on their meetings and movements.
Chaudhry Nisar is keeping his cards close to the chest for a future role and made a timely exit from power corridors of PMLN by making his disagreements public. Nawaz Sharif understands this and the fate of Shahbaz Sharif in the wake of Model Town and Hudaibiya cases is an inevitable eventuality.
PM Shahid Khaqaan Abbasi is ruling out the possibility of early elections which means he is not in favour of dissolving the assemblies, atleast so far. So, the PTI demand for early elections hangs in balance with a planned protest in Islamabad trying to force the government’s hand for early elections. However, in such an eventuality, PPP would again stand with PMLN or go with the PTI is yet to be decided. If PPP opposes dissolution, it would affect the party’s future to a great extent even in Sindh where PTI has started public gatherings. The confessions of Uzair Baloch are weighing heavily on PPP Co Chairman Asif Zardari who is alleged to be the main beneficiary and handler of the Lyari gangster.
The London Meeting of PMLN took stock of the situation with suggestions of party leadership going to someone else, a plan to which Nawaz Sharif did not agree. It’s the inevitable haunting the fate of ex Premier Nawaz Sharif and his family including forfeiture of all assets not only in Pakistan but abroad as well. The empire of Nawaz Sharif clan has to be saved and the only possibility for Nawaz Sharif is to fight back and try to portray a larger conspiracy to oust him. His statements focusing on Iqama are part of the same. The strategy adopted by Sharif family and Ishaq Dar in Accountability Court has sealed their fate unless they could produce the money trail, which is non-existent since Panama Papers were revealed in April 2016. Conviction from Accountability Court is writing on the wall unless non existent money trail could be produced. With such a realization in Nawaz Sharif family, the only option for Nawaz Sharif, both politically and legally, is to fight back and not let the accountability process proceed further.
However, such a confrontational strategy is opposed from within the party by senior leaders including Shahbaz Sharif, Chaudhry Nisar, Riaz Pirzada and a few others having considerable influence in the party, but to no avail.
The confrontational strategy of PMLN as envisioned by Nawaz Sharif might not result in any benefits for the party but a wild calculation based on past experiences has the potential of turning the tide in favour of Sharif family in the long run.
PMLN’s confrontational strategy entails taking the judiciary head on by curtailing the age of retirement of judges and ending the Accountability Courts through National Accountability Commission law. As far as Army is concerned, the drawing room buzz even within PMLN is that a la Pervez Musharraf 1999 formula was under consideration but sanity has prevailed so far.
A few sane voices in PMLN believe that PM Shahid Khaqaan would not oblige Nawaz Sharif with his wild wish of doing a few sackings. However, considering that dissolution of assembly is ruled out by Shahid Khaqaan so far, sackings being termed suicidal from within PMLN, the options for Nawaz Sharif family are few and limited. In such an eventuality, what the opposition is saying, the risk of landing behind bars increases manifold and that may not be far off for Nawaz Sharif family, including Ishaq Dar.
All the messages coming out from London would try to portray a message of reconciliation and non confrontational methodology while sharpening the swords and knifes for the battle to be fought in the days to come.