There was always going to be a conviction. That was something few were doubting. What the bookmakers were interested in was what the sentence was going to be, and the court came out swinging in response.
Mian Nawaz Sharif is looking at a decade in prison right now. His daughter Maryam is looking at 7 years and has been disqualified from holding public office even before she could have her big debut as a legislator. Her husband has been slapped with a year off and a 10-year disqualification for good measure.
This was the proverbial last blow to the League. Two of their most recognisable faces have been taken out of the running for office and their Quaid has been declared a criminal and an absconder.
While the tool has been the accountability court, there seems to be little doubt in the PML-N narrative that the real assailant has been the long-reaching arm of some sort of judicial-military nexus.
The PML-N has been dealt a nasty one, and the entire party is out for the count. The opposition is standing back and watching, hoping the Sharifs will stay down on the mat, hoping they’re not going to get back up. But that is going to depend on whether they plan on coming back to the country.
In the face of this onslaught, Mian Nawaz isn’t pulling any punches either. I’m coming back to face jail time, he says, and I’m not going to stop fighting against the slavery imposed on Pakistanis by some “judges and generals.”
But the promise of return comes with a catch. Mian Nawaz has said he is restless to return to his country, but he hasn’t announced a return date, saying once again he will wait for his wife to regain consciousness. Again, that could mean a week, that could mean a day, that could mean a month and that could even mean never.
Nawaz returning now could mean good optics. Even days before the verdict Maryam Nawaz was already playing out her possible arrest as a heroic sacrifice. Mian Nawaz going behind bars could be the start of a mass movement – and we know he has the support and manpower for it. But the way Imran Khan is already playing it might have him come out looking like a crook ala Nixon.
For now, the League stays down, with Mian Shehbaz fighting the lone fight at home while older brother mulls it over in London.
With the polls in less than 20 days, these elections are now more about corruption than ever before. How corruption remains vague and unimportant to the Pakistani people. The question is not of technicalities, but whether the trials were slated against the Sharifs to destroy the League by khalai makhlooq or whether this was the swift sword of justice in action.
That is the choice in front of the nation, and the decision Pakistan will have to make through democracy. After all the talk of it, the Awam ki Adalat is finally in session. And the PML-N won’t have it easy here either.