Nawaz Sharif has returned to Pakistan and presented himself before the accountability courts to face the charges of corruption. The political future of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) has become increasingly ambiguous in the last few months. Though Nawaz seemed to have won some victories by having the Senate Elections Bill passed, it is tarnished by serious consequences such as the freezing of his assets. Every step for Nawaz must be a carefully planned move in this chess game of a field. With no legal loophole in sight which would annul his disqualification, Nawaz needs to signal his next step or risk being checkmated before the 2018 elections. Thus, the meeting of senior PMLN leaders in London this weekend with Nawaz to discuss the party’s political future was long due and whose outcome analysts wait with baited breath. There are several dire issues that PML-N leaders have to conclude: of the 2018 elections, the accountability cases against the Sharif family, the arrest warrant of Ishaq Dar, the disqualification reference against Khawaja Asif and the High Court judgment to make public the 2014 Model town incident records.
All sources indicate that Nawaz is likely to sacrifice Ishaq Dar. The reports signal that the leadership of PML-N has decided to remove Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the wake of inquiry into corruption allegations against him. In the wake of the circumstances, Ishaq Dar’s resignation is the correct step. The principle of ministerial responsibility in democracies demands that minister’s take the fall for the failings of their institutions. While Ishaq’s Finance Ministry hasn’t done any actions that requires him to step down, his own involvement in a myriad of corruption references make the functioning of the ministry problematic. With Ishaq fending of legal cases – or safely absconding to foreign lands – in the foreseeable future, we need a new Finance Minister.
However, giving up Ishaq Dar could bring forth serious criticism for Nawaz himself, who faces very similar charges from the same JIT, but refuses to accept the same level of blame and step away from politics like Ishaq Dar will be made to do. Nawaz also has to take in consideration views of leaders like Khaqan Abbasi and now-distant Chaudhary Nisar, who has advised the ousted Prime Minister to uphold the legitimacy of the judiciary and to cool down the anti-establishment strategy. Letting go of Ishaq would be more in line with a democratic and lawful approach, and might temporarily please the judiciary loyalists but could ironically result in demands for the same fate for Nawaz.