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Possible arrest to be blessing in disguise for Sharif brothers
 
The possible arrest of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif in NAB cases on their return home on the Supreme Court intervention may come as a “blessing in disguise” for both the exiled brothers as PML-(N) might gain popularity among sympathetic voters during the fast-approaching election.

Many believe here that immediate arrest of both the brothers by NAB might create sympathy among the public on the one hand while they will get rid of

the stinking taunts of “cowardice”, which they have been facing for preferring life in a Saudi palace to a cell of the Attock Fort.

As hearing of the Sharif brothers’ case has started in the SC with the dramatic reopening of 8-year-old NAB cases, a heated debate has started here whether this time they would dare sit in jail if they were finally allowed to return home by the Supreme Court?

Questions about the readiness of Sharif brothers to face jail are surfacing here simply because of their controversial decision in 2000, to prefer a “safe heaven” in Jeddah instead of staying in Attock Fort on the sentence of anti-terrorist court on allegations of hijacking the plane carrying General Musharraf.

At the time of their dramatic departure to Saudi Arabia, a strong impression was created in the minds of both the media and the public that both the brothers were afraid of jail and so they struck a highly-controversial deal with General Musharraf. The same impression seems to have now convinced the establishment in Pakistan to reopen the NAB cases against them to deter them from returning to Pakistan and stay back in London despite being given a new political lease of life by the SC.

Since the reopening of NAB cases that followed MNA Khawaja Asif’s petition in the SC, a general impression both in Pakistan and London is that the two brothers might not like to go to jails.

A possibility is being discussed now that they should not land in Pakistan despite being allowed by the Court as indications become clearer that their return to Islamabad may not be so

safe.

But unlike the general perception, this time both the brothers seem determined to return home irrespective of the threats by the NAB to put them in jail on account of corruption charges.

Nawaz and Shahbaz seem determined to return and even prefer jail. In all these last eight years, both the brothers have been taunted for running

away from Pakistan instead of going to jails to face a military dictator.

They were always found apologetic and giving long explanations to their critics in media, public and political circles. They faced more criticism in Pakistan and abroad when people found Asif Ali Zardari, Yousaf Raza Gilani and Javed Hashmi defying the rule of General Musharraf as these leaders preferred jail to compromised freedom.

Javed Hashmi set new precedent in the history of PML-Nawaz and helped the party earn some face-saving when he spent three years in jail on sedition charges and refused to succumb to pressures. Interestingly, Nawaz Sharif always defended his decision to fly out of Pakistan.

He never felt remorseful over leaving the country in the middle of crises and giving a chance to Musharraf to rule the country without any irritant. He always sounded as he had got a holy call from the House of God, so how could he deny it at any cost. He took himself as the guest of God.

But both in private and public meetings, Shahbaz Sharif always termed the decision to leave

Pakistan a kind of political mistake.

He never hid his views that the Sharif family should have not migrated from Pakistan under a deal with Saudis as it hurt their political credentials. Even, General Musahrraf in his book “In the Line of Fire” wrote that Shahbaz was not ready to leave Pakistan. But his family put him under pressure to leave the country otherwise, nobody was allowed to go into exile. Shahbaz even tried to return to Pakistan two years back when a Lahore-based court issued his arrest warrants in a case. The Musharraf government did not allow him to land at Lahore airport and sent him to Jeddah on the next available flight.

The jail cell was not the first experience for Shahbaz Sharif, as he had been languishing there during the second tenure of Benazir Bhutto as prime minister. So there was no psychological barrier on the mind of Shahbaz, as was the case with Nawaz. This was first time for the twice-elected chief minister Punjab and as many times prime minister of the country – Nawaz Sharif – to sit in a cell and face all kinds of humiliation and abuses at the hands of military guards of Musharraf.

Nawaz, born with virtually a golden spoon in his mouth, had entered in politics in early 80s as finance minister of the General Gilani cabinet. He always remained in the power corridors till 1999 when he was handcuffed at the Prime Minister House and pulled to jail. Nawaz faced the guards of General Musharraf who created all kinds of troubles to humiliate and insult him in jail. He might, however, be happy to spend a few months in jail at a time when the country is going for election as his party may regain some lost popularity.

23-08-2007 02:43 Rauf Klasra
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