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Another Exile?

by Newsweek Pakistan

Oli Scarff—AFP

Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s extended trip to London could prove longer than previously thought

Maryam Nawaz, daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, thinks her father should stay away from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) court summoning him to answer charges relating to corruption. She must have noted NAB’s action against the incumbent finance minister: the anti-corruption body on Wednesday seized Ishaq Dar’s bank accounts and properties in the revived Hudaibiya Papers Mills case and sent summons to the Sharif family in London.

That she feels her father should stay away even after winning the NA-120 by-poll means she hears the footfall of history repeating itself. It was the 1999 visit from Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee after which the Army chief, actually busy fighting the covert Kargil war, decided to rid himself of Sharif. This time what touched off the crisis was current Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s private visit to the Sharif home in Lahore in 2015, triggering the slogan “Modi ka jo yaar hai ghaddar hai” (A friend of Modi is traitor to Pakistan). Sharif’s second exile may have begun.

When the PPP was in trouble and threatened with exile, the PMLN was squarely behind the establishment. Sitting in London and looking after his cancer-stricken wife, Sharif must be aware that almost half the TV channels are bad-mouthing him now while the rest are slowly retreating to a “neutral” position.

The anti-Nawaz channels are led by Bol TV, whose financier company Axact was let of the hook for selling false degrees after the prosecutor was shot at, as recently revealed by senior journalist Mujibur Rehman Shami. The lower court judge who let Axact go free with all its money has already—mysteriously—admitted before the Islamabad High Court that he accepted a bribe to acquit the company. And, as the current faceoff unfolds, somebody is kidnapping supporters of the dismissed prime minister. Almost all the political parties also want the PMLN to bite the dust and Sharif to get his comeuppance. Meanwhile, the economy, under siege from a carefully nurtured “street power” over four years, continues its slide toward collapse as the rival politicians jockey for power over a state increasingly fighting to exercise its authority.

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