STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

There is huge circus going on in Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif is suffering from some serious ailments. It led to being granted bail on medical grounds, despite being a convict. An extremely unusual relief painted as a “humanitarian act”. But there is nothing unusual when it comes to the “Royal” Sharifs.

What is mind-boggling is the special treatment reserved for the privileged few. How many convicted prisoners get sick in jail? How do they receive their treatment? How many survive or unfortunately pass on? Mr. Sharif got the best care available in Pakistan. After all he is three times Prime Minister. But we must remember he is not a political prisoner; he has been convicted for looting and plundering the national exchequer.

We all stood by Prime Minister Imran Khan for over two decades and he was voted into power to bring accountability to the “untouchables” in Pakistan. Mr. Sharif’s conviction is a result of joint efforts at all institutional levels to clean up Pakistan.

During our time we have seen other corrupt rulers and despots around the world reaching their fate. Look at Gaddafi’s sad ending or Saddam Hussain final scenes holed up in a tunnel. In China, when corruption of a public servant is proved, they are executed.

In Pakistan we have a black hole when it comes to the privileged. The system is flawed and full of holes. In a society brutalized by molestation of kids, exploitation of women, investigation through torture, but when it comes to the elite the judicial system is toothless.

IK has committed on multiple occasions that the only exit for Sharifs was through a plea bargain with NAB. Figures from two billion dollars to twelve billion were bandied about in the press. That situation has now been circumvented due to Nawaz Sharif’s failing health. It is a third option that was not on the cards previously.

An awkward situation arose for the PTI government. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The courts had spoken. Nawaz Sharif imminent travel abroad was widely expected. The spoke in the wheel was removal from exit control list. It was a hot potato that neither NAB nor Interior Ministry was ready to handle. It landed squarely in the lap of Prime Minister and his cabinet.

The cabinet reached a smart solution. They totaled all the fines imposed on Nawaz Sharif. It adds up to seven billion rupees. They put a precondition for his travel abroad. The time of absence permitted by court is four weeks.  The government has a sought a bond for the above amount as security in the event that Nawaz Sharif fails to return. A paltry amount when compared to the Billions he has looted.

It does not fulfill PTI’s objective but does convey its intent. PTI has made tall claims. The record of absconding by the Sharif family once out of the country is appalling. Starting from Ishaq Dar to Salman Shabaz, Ali Imran and of course the celebrated sons of Nawaz Sharif, no one gives two hoots for Pakistani courts or its authorities.

But even this bargain offer has been squarely rejected by the Sharifs. Mr. Shahbaz Sharif has called it “ransom”. Khawaja Asif considers that while the sum is paltry, it is the principal behind this demand that PML(N) finds repulsive. Interesting, since when have “principals” become a problem for the Sharifs? They have broken every law in the book and some more.

The problem is Sharifs are a one way street. They only know how to take. The word “giving” does not exist in their dictionary. Moreover they consider giving a bond as an admission of guilt. But Nawaz is already convicted! They have announced their decision to seek relief from the courts. Their case will be taken up by the time you read this post. But it begs the question, over a week has passed in this matter, where is the urgency to travel now? Pakistanis are known to sell their family silver when a near or dear one is in need! But it seems Sharifs hold money dearer than life!

Given the present “relief” mode of the High Court, a speedy verdict could be forthcoming. History will judge who allowed the biggest culprits of Pakistani nation to escape unscathed.

The underlying issue behind the present scuffle is the sense of entitlement that our elite consider their God sent gift. It is a reality in Pakistan that unless you have roots or are affiliated with bureaucracy, army, judiciary, lawyers, politicians or media you are meaningless and irrelevant.

The Pakistani nation has suffered loot and plunder at the hands of its rulers and the governing classes. This ill gotten wealth has been transferred abroad and there are numerous politicians, bureaucrats, public servants enjoying the comforts of the western world with impunity at the cost of a debt ridden nation. The present judicial system is incapable of bringing these scoundrels to book. A complete overhaul is needed. A complete blood transfusion is required.

Will it be achieved in our lifetime? I urge Prime Minister Imran Khan to stay firm. If it brings his Government down so be it. Pakistanis are known to stand by those who sacrifice by sticking to their principles. Don’t let your wimpy coalition partners or short sighted advisers convince you otherwise. The nation will back you, PTI will stand with you.

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