Maryam Nawaz 20190707
Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Pakistan's convicted premier Nawaz Sharif, gestures during a news conference in Lahore, Pakistan, Saturday, July 6, 2019. Image Credit: AP


  • Maryam is the kind of leader that has the power and capability to achieve a great deal if her circumstances and her narratives were different
  • Maryam’s political actions are shaped by the visibly shortsighted advice and influence of her media advisers

It started with a tweet.

After that came a press conference.

Then a rally happened.

All along, there were many tweets, retweets, and media discussions.

A few days later a notice arrived from the court.

That, succinctly, is the latest episode in the saga of Maryam Nawaz Sharif versus Government of Pakistan, Maryam Nawaz Sharif versus the accountability judiciary of Pakistan, and Maryam Nawaz Sharif against the universe. The goal is to have her father, Nawaz Sharif, released from jail. The modus operandi is a mixed bag of the rational and the bluster, the legal and the theatrical, the emotional and the absurd, the reality and the fantasy.

On July 6, 2019, Maryam, flanked by her uncle, three-time chief minister and president of Pakistan Muslim league-Nawaz (PML-N), Shehbaz Sharif, and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former prime minister, and other PML-N heavyweights on both sides, presented, in painstaking detail, contents of an audio and video recording that is alleged to be of one of the judges who convicted her father, Nawaz Sharif, last year. The three-time prime minister, Sharif, is in the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore, serving a seven-year sentence in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills/Hill Metal Establishment reference.

On July 8, 2018, Maryam was given a two-year sentence in the Avenfield corruption case.

On July 7, Maryam spoke to a well-attended rally in Mandi Bahuddin in Punjab.

On September 19, 2018, Maryam’s sentence was suspended on a petition hearing. The court announced: “The judges accepted the convicts’ petitions against the Avenfield verdict, ruling that the sentences would remain suspended until the final judgement on their appeals.”

Reportedly, no appeal from any individual or legal authority was filed.

The July 19 notice to Maryam to appear before the court has been filed for “producing a bogus trust deed before the accountability court in order to conceal the London properties.”

The application filed under “Section 30 of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 and ...Schedule of NAO 1999” states: “The above conclusion [of the document being bogus] by this court was reached after evaluating the entire evidence; hence, it is apparent that the respondent has maliciously fabricated and tendered false evidence/information with the intention to mislead the due process of law and trial and hamper the administration of justice.”

Without claiming to be a law expert, I think there is a case of double jeopardy here. In Maryam’s favour.

The July 6 press conference, in which Arshad Malik, an accountability court judge, was shown, through a video-audio recording, to be “under pressure” to give a verdict against Sharif, highlights multiple issues, none of which has one suitable answer or explanation. Without qualifying it as a Pandora’s box, as the past alleged partisanship of various judges for various reasons in various cases against leaders of various parties, reported to be controversial or objectionable, is neither new nor shocking, what must be said without any whataboutism: Judge Malik must recuse himself from all cases he’s presently overseeing.

There is no doubt, notwithstanding the veracity of the contents of the tapes, that there are huge question marks on the integrity and impartiality of the judge. Apart from the Sharif case, Judge Malik also has in his purview cases of the former president, Asif Zardari, his sister, Faryal Talpur, and three former prime ministers: Yousaf Raza Gillani, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Shaukat Aziz.

Amidst statements and press conferences of his cabinet members, Prime Minister Imran Khan has distanced himself from the video leaks controversy.”

As per the statement of Federal Minister for Communications Murad Saeed, and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, the government wishes to have a probe into the tapes under the supervision of the Supreme Court or the Islamabad High Court.

While there is a great deal of criticism apropos Maryam’s sting tapes, and many questions about the timing and presentation of tapes in a press conference as a sensational scoop instead of being given to a court, and the legal value of the tapes and their contents, it is imperative to have a forensic audit of the tapes. Notwithstanding the underhanded origin of the tapes, a superior court, in order to keep the sanctity of the legal system of Pakistan beyond any shadow of doubt, should take notice of the tapes. And that should also be done in order to evaluate the legal significance of the ‘confession’ for the sake of assessment of the credibility of the court that passed the Sharif verdict.

Verification and authentication of tapes and their contents must be done not to give Sharif a get-out-of-jail pass, but to uphold the sanctity of case verdicts. And notwithstanding the past record of Sharifs and the PML-N of gratuitous criticism of the higher judiciary, attacks on the judiciary, and blackmailing and pressure tactics on the judiciary, a higher court must take cognizance of the tapes. Justice is the sole, primary and ultimate responsibility of a court of law, and that must never be overlooked despite the dubiousness of claims and the warped ways to seek justice.

After NAB’s notice on July 9, Maryam, following the twitter-steps of Donald Trump, decided to give her response in multiple tweets. Tweet one: “Didn’t I predict that? Wasn’t I expecting that? Didn’t I know what was coming? Didn’t I know the lowest this infamous gang can stoop to? YES I did. Make no mistake.”

For Maryam to think that a response that anyone who understands the legal system of Pakistan expected to emerge is a gem of astuteness limited only to her erudite self...

Tweet two in Urdu: “The government, after its conspiracies were revealed in my press conference, in a fit of panic, have filed another case against me. I ask the people that instead of getting answers to my questions should I present myself in that NAB [court] that is a hostage through audio-video [tapes]?”

For all those who take tweets as the gospel, here is a tiny bit of truth. It was neither Imran Khan nor his government that filed cases against Sharif and his family members. It wasn’t Khan, his government or his party that formed NAB or appointed the current chairperson of NAB. All cases against the Sharifs and Zardaris were filed, and sentences against the Sharifs given BEFORE Imran Khan-led PTI even won the elections. Truth is inconvenient, but as that wily old British prime minster said once upon a time, truth “is incontrovertible.”

Third tweet, also in Urdu: “I want your advice that should I boycott a pre-set vengeance [action], or should I stand in the NAB court to sift the truth from the falsehoods? Have me there but at your own risk! You will not be able to hear or have anyone else hear what I’ve to say! Lest you hit your head later [in a fit of frustration].”

My weak attempt to do justice to Urdu proverbs and idioms that do not have a parallel in any language...

And that brings me to the huge conundrum, that complex enigma, that unfathomable thing colloquially known as Maryam Nawaz’s politics. Articulate, focused, tenacious, mostly composed, rarely an argument or hair out of place, Maryam, 45, is the kind of leader that has the power and capability to achieve a great deal if her circumstances and her narratives were different. But then as some say, in different circumstances, she may have remained in the shadows of her male family members.

Maryam’s political actions are shaped by the visibly shortsighted advice and influence of her media advisers. Maryam’s politics has a singular agenda: release of her father from jail.

Unlike Benazir Bhutto, Maryam’s father is not in jail because of the naked ambition of a military dictator who usurped power after a midnight coup. Maryam’s father is in jail after being sentenced in a case of failure to provide the money trail of his assets, not in a fight for supremacy of democracy.

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Maryam’s politics are not about the good of her country but for that of her family. There is nothing wrong with loyalty and concern, even the excessive type, for your family. It just generally is not the be-all and end-all of politics of an aspiring national leader with her eyes on the top prize: prime minister-ship.

There is another thing–noticeable to many–that Maryam seems to wear with an ease that is almost so disconcerting it is scary. No, not her graceful attires, matching accessories, and her lovely smile. It is Maryam’s sense of entitlement. It is as obvious as the diamond-studded Rolex on her slim wrist. How could this happen to us...How dare anyone hold us accountable for anything...How are we, the ones-who-can’t-be-touched, being treated like mere mortals...Why the hell has our power been taken...

When you open too many fronts, success becomes elusive. You point fingers at all state institutions while saying you wish to demean none. You ascribe sinister motives to all actions of the government. You accuse the judiciary of unfairness. You expect the public, which despite voting for your party in huge numbers in Punjab didn’t stage a countrywide protest for you, to start a revolution for you and your family. You, without naming names, hold the establishment responsible for all the hardships your family is confronted with. You label all judicial actions a political witch-hunt. You describe legal accountability of your family-in power three times-as political victimisation.

Do you see what is wrong with this picture? Not the courts, not the government, not the establishment, in my opinion, the biggest enemy of Maryam Nawaz Sharif is Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

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