From London To The Prime Minister’s Office: Journey To Power Still Very Bumpy For Nawaz Sharif

From London To The Prime Minister’s Office: Journey To Power Still Very Bumpy For Nawaz Sharif
Are Nawaz Sharif and Jahangir Khan Tareen ready to fight the tough election fight, as the National Assembly approved the Elections (Amendment) Act 2023 on June 25, 2023 that limits the disqualification of parliamentarians under Article 62(1)(f) to five years.

They are technically free to head a political party and contest elections – since the Acting President has signed the bill into law. Presently, President Arif Alvi is in Saudi Arabia to perform Haj and Senate Chairman Siraj Sanjrani is acting on his behalf.

Independent Senator Dilawar Khan and others earlier presented the bill in the Senate. It seeks amendments to Section 232 (Qualifications and Disqualifications) of the Election Act, 2017, and is related to Article 62(1)(f) of the constitution.

The main beneficiaries of the bill are said to be Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif and the newly-formed political party, Istehkam-i-Pakistan (IPP) patron, Jahangir Khan Tareen – both were disqualified in 2017, more than five years ago, when a Supreme Court judgment ruled that the disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution was for life.

Undoubtedly, the bill is designed to benefit Sharif. Tareen is only a small fish in the deep sea of politics. The IPP mostly comprises non-electables, defectors from PTI, and still has quite the distance to swim to grab the title of the king’s party.

But whether Nawaz Sharif will benefit from the amendments in the bill is unclear. For, his return is not dependent on the disqualification verdict, “the more immediate concern is the criminal cases,” says lawyer Salahuddin Ahmed. “I believe someone or the other will challenge the bill or candidacy when they [Sharif and Tareen] file nominations. It will end up before judiciary one way or the other, which will then have to confront its earlier decisions regarding disqualification being for life.”

After leaving the country for medical treatment in London in November 2019, the now ailing and aging Sharif will have to face a mountain load of challenges with grit and courage in Pakistan. “Nawaz Sharif has a long way to go before he is acquitted in the Avenfield and Al Azizia corruption cases – remember, that he is on a special bail granted to him on medical grounds and supported by guarantees of his return provided by his brother Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Also, the Islamabad High Court has already dismissed his appeals against his convictions in both references,” says Badar Alam.

Nawaz has faced similar circumstances before. Back in November 2007, when he returned to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia, he was a convict — having been sentenced to life imprisonment for hijacking Pervez Musharraf’s place in 1999. “But, then, miracles happened, his convictions were overturned and he came back on top on Pakistan’s politics by the winning general elections in 2013,” adds Alam.

Experts agree that the onus is on the courts – to allow or disallow Sharif from contesting the next elections. In the previous instance, he was given relief by an apex court headed by Iftikhar Chaudhry who had strong popular backing besides having a complete consensus of the court behind him. “But the current Supreme Court is not just strongly divided, it also does not enjoy unconditional support among the news media and general public,” adds Alam.

From London to Dubai, the PML-N supremo is already half way home. Will he embark on the last leg of the journey, land in his homeland, and face the corruption charges in courts this time again, and sail smoothly, directly into the Prime Minister’s office? Life is indeed strange in this country called Pakistan.