Islamabad, July 1: After days of legal haggling, the Pakistan government finally deported three family members of Shahbaz Sharif, former chief minister of Punjab and younger brother of Nawaz Sharif, to Saudi Arabia.
The Sharif family has been living in exile in Saudi Arabia since late 2000 under a deal that had been brokered by the royal family.
The deportees included Shahbaz Sharif’s wife, Nusrat, and two of their daughters.
Their eventual eviction this evening was preceded by the family’s attempts to prevent the inevitable through their lawyer Ashtar Ausaf.
But the endeavour proved futile as the administration was set on evicting them out of the country.
Ausaf could not even make it to the court to get any relief for the family.
Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-) leaders claim Ausaf was either forcibly stopped or detained to prevent him from appearing in the court. He had petitioned the Lahore High Court for the recovery of the family members, who had been taken into custody late last week.
The family had been allowed to enter Pakistan in mid-April to participate in family functions for two weeks. However, they extended their stay, which insiders believe was the result of a meeting between Hamza Sharif, Shahbaz’s eldest son, with Prime Minister Mir Zafrullah Jamali. With the permission of the military authorities, Hamza had been in Pakistan since last year to look after the family business with a pledge not to indulge in politics. A close aide of Nawaz Sharif and PML() vice-president Syed Zafar Ali Shah was, however, reluctant to concede that such a meeting had taken place. “They are apolitical people and those who really matter are living in exile. I don’t think such a meeting would have taken place. There is also no possibility of the government striking a deal with the family members of Shahbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif.”
There has been no comment from Jamali’s office. However, given the current situation here it would sound strange to believe that a prime ministerial intervention in the Sharif’s case would carry any weight even if that meeting took place.
The contents of the agreement on Nawaz Sharif’s exile alongwith his family remains a mystery as neither General Pervez Musharraf nor any member of the former Prime Minister ever disclosed contents of the accord. General Musharraf, prompted repeatedly by journalists, had once declared in a press conference that either he or the Sharifs would stay in Pakistan.
He added that it would be wishful thinking on part of the Sharif family if they think they can return to the country.
However, the Musharraf government had also reportedly sent emissaries including Majid Nizami, the owner of the influential Nawai-Waqt Group of newspapers, to Saudi Arabia to convince Nawaz Sharif into a deal for government formation soon after the general elections last year.
But the Sharif family, currently enjoying the royal Saudi hospitality in a big palatial complex near Riyadh, apparently turned down the offers.
In recent weeks, Musharraf has also vocally dismissed the possibility of allowing either Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto to return to Pakistan, saying this would not happen as long as he remains in power.
The general, with full US backing for his unprecedented support to the American forces and intelligence services in their war against terrorism, says he will not provide these leaders with “another chance to loot and plunder” Pakistan.