A non-establishment but very knowledgeable pigeon whispered in my ear that Nawaz, after the Avenfield judgment, had approached several quarters requesting that he and Maryam, and unsurprisingly no mention of Safdar, the luggar buggar, be granted judicial relief from punishment and jail.
In return, both will publicly renounce all forms of political and electoral politics and permanently live outside Pakistan.
The answer: we have nothing to do with the judicial process nor had or have any influence.
The decision to return or not return, seek relief and get it or not get it, and renounce politics is yours and yours alone!
So that’s that!
Senior voices in the PMLN are divided on their return.
One camp is against their returning.
They think a free Nawaz and Maryam, located in London, are far more potent and effective than in jail in Pakistan.
They argue that by being in London they will continue to have access to both Pakistani and International media, and use this access to continue to hammer away at the Army and the Judiciary and protest their “victimhood”!
They also argue, that even if the PMLN loses this election, the fact that they are not in jail, gives their supporters hope that in a few years the situation might change and a good possibility of returning to Pakistan in triumph, like Benazir!
Those advising Nawaz not to return to Pakistan also advise that both Nawaz and Maryam get political asylum in the UK. They believe that by doing so they strengthen their case of being politically victimized in the Avenfield case and therefore saving their foreign assets from being seized and confiscated by any foreign government such as the UK, in line with the decision of the Pakistani courts.
Additionally by staying out also allows them to fight any case more effectively brought against them under the recently promulgated UK “Unexplained Wealth Orders” which asks people to explain their sources of wealth.
Here’s the link for those interested in this UK order.
In summary, this gives them a better chance of saving their ill-gotten wealth and assets, retain their freedom with access to media to continue to hammer away at the army and the judiciary and keep the flame alive of a possible triumphant return to Pakistan, at a future date.
The other group insists that Nawaz and Maryam come back and face the judicial consequences and even go to jail if they have to.
They believe that like Zardari, both will emerge politically stronger and that a future judicial review of their cases may allow them to come back into mainstream politics with the focus on Maryam picking up the mantle, now having achieved the ultimate political badge of imprisonment!
Those believe that if Nawaz and Maryam don’t return, the damage to the party and its morale will be irreparable and destroy any chances of a possible comeback, especially for Maryam.
They also believe that their return may generate a huge sympathy vote wave in PMLN’s favor, just before the election, and just enough to spoil Imran’s chances of an outright majority at the Center and in Punjab, with the field open for a coalition which may look more benignly at their case later when in power.
When I asked about the “Kulsoom” factor, one pigeon said that if her condition is what’s being rumored then by returning under such circumstances would result in a massive funeral, Ghaibaana Namaaz e Janazas all across the country and an even bigger sympathy vote wave.
Additionally, this may thwart any plans by the authorities to either divert the flight to Islamabad or the possibility of help lifting them from Lahore to avoid a tumultuous welcome, possible serious law and order situation and a long procession from Lahore to Islamabad.
All covered, second by second, by local and international media!!
Because if the “Kulsoom” factor does play out, it will be very difficult for the authorities to divert the plane or helicopter lift them from Lahore, till the final rites are done!
So what will Nawaz and Maryam do?
Come back or stay away?
If I were him, and knowing how he cannot bear life in jail I would save my wealth, fight my unexplained wealth orders case, get political asylum and stay away.
And live to fight another day!
But who knows how the future unfolds!