The verdict announced yesterday has been a hard-fought battle for all parties involved. It was an on-going struggle since October of last year when the Avenfield reference was put forth by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in September 2017, which is one of three corruption cases that were filed against the Sharifs on orders of the Supreme Court during its historic Panama verdict.
A number of factors accumulated to turn this affair into one whose verdict would not only be highly anticipated but also potentially controversial. Contradicting statements by Hassan and Hussain Nawaz as to when exactly the Avenfield flats were acquired, Nawaz Sharif’s attempt to distance himself totally by claiming ignorance, the connection to off-shore companies (which Maryam Nawaz denied), and the ultimate failure to produce a legitimate money trail for the purchase of the London flats all led to this decision.
After a two-month delay announced by the Supreme Court in March this year, and more than a hundred court hearings attended by Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz, the verdict announced yesterday surpassed all expectations in terms of its explosive effect on the several different factions within Pakistan.
Beginning from the ‘Azaadi March’ in 2014 up till now, the much-revered leader and his party have been actively pitting their righteousness against what they consider to be the corrupt leadership of the Sharifs.
What is akin to Deliverance Day for one party is a daunting low for another. Shahbaz Sharif, during a live press conference, has deemed the verdict against his family as ‘unjust’, claiming his brother was ‘undeserving’ of this harsh sentence. He went on to cite several economic and political achievements witnessed during the last few years, the initiator and benefactor of which he claims was his brother Nawaz.
Furthermore, he very spiritedly asserted that the ‘Awami Adalat’ was yet to convene, but once it did its decision would be resounding and impossible to refute.
The public’s decision will be heard loud and clear. I myself will go to every corner and every nook to raise support for Nawaz.
The strength of his conviction seems out of place in the current political landscape, which as of right now looks grim for the Sharifs, seeing as how Maryam Nawaz also stands disqualified from the elections.
However, there is something which Shahbaz Sharif has said in his speech and which is a question in the minds of many others as well:
Asif Ali Zardari had been accused a long time prior to the Sharif case of having offshore companies in Panama, Jersey, Gibraltar, and others. However, the selfsame Accountability Court Judge, Muhammad Bashir, who announced today’s verdict acquitted Zardari of the charges brought up against him due to the official case documents being ‘unavailable’. To make it clearer, the judge failed to extract these documents from the Supreme Court and acquitted the president regardless.
Five months after the opening of the case against the Sharifs, NAB found that the case was being contested using copies of official documents rather than the original ones. What was used as an excuse to acquit Zardari was later used to condemn the Sharifs.
Furthermore, Chairman of Pakistan Sugar Mills, Javed Kayani, openly admitted to having a hand in fraudulent transactions of money to, as later revealed, the Sharifs. Even further, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was reportedly found to be the owner of a Swiss bank account containing millions. And let’s not forget Pervez Musharraf who has billions in offshore accounts.
The verdict we saw today was just that: a verdict. One passed by not infallible, but flawed forces of justice; we cannot declare anything to be absolute in a country as surrounded and infiltrated by unaccountability as it is. Today PTI will be ecstatic, while PML-N will set out to pursue a justice-seeking agenda. This very discrepancy that we witness around us is proof of the fact that things are never as black and white as even our courts and patrons of justice may make them out to be.