The woman who saved Imran Khan from becoming a political has-been

Written by Hamid Mir
Published: December 16, 2017 9:02 pm

Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan speaks to reporters in Karachi, Pakistan on Friday. AP photo

Jemima Goldsmith was divorced by Imran Khan in 2004 but she has emerged as her ex-husband’s savior in 2017. The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday absolved Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan of all allegations of corruption but disqualified his party’s secretary general Jahangir Tareen. Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar absolved Imran, as a result of which the petition filed against him by a senior leader belonging to Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N party, was dismissed.

All of Pakistan came to a standstill on Friday as the Supreme Court announced its verdict. The political ramifications of letting off Imran Khan are enormous. Remember that Nawaz Sharif was barred from contesting political office earlier in the year allegedly because he did not fully disclose his assets abroad (which came out in the Panama Papers two years ago), but it seems Imran Khan has been let off by the courts for a similar crime.

Imran has termed this judgment as victory of justice but expressed reservations on the verdict on Jahangir Tareen. It seems Imran was able to provide a money trail to the court, which Tareen failed to do. We all know that when the hearing of this case began in November 2016, Imran was in serious trouble.

Petitioner Hanif Abbasi claimed that Imran Khan concealed facts about his assets, including an offshore company which was opened in London under the name of Niazi Services Limited. Imran’s lawyers sought to prove that this company was only used for the purchase and sale of a flat in London but they never had the record of bank transactions. Finally Imran Khan called Jemima in London for help. She did a lot of hard work, spent many weeks and even collected all the relevant documents from a bank that was shut down a few years ago. These documents were produced in the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Imran Khan was saved.

The whole of PTI is grateful to Jemima for rescuing a would-be prime minister from the ignominy of potential disqualification. Former Information minister and a close PTI ally Sheikh Rashid Ahmad has suggested that Imran Khan must marry Jemima again because after Allah, it was Jemima who has saved him. Certainly Imran’s sons – from Jemima — Suleiman and Qasim, also want the same. But few know that Jemima left Pakistan not because of her differences with Imran Khan – they were never really serious – but because Nawaz Sharif’s government filed a case against her for the theft of antiques in 1999.

Furious, Jemima asked Imran Khan to leave Pakistan. He refused. That was the break point. She returned to London with her sons. A few years ago, when Suleiman and Qasim were visiting their father in Pakistan, they were robbed. Jemima was very upset. But now she has saved her former husband from political oblivion.

A close friend of Imran Khan told me last night that Imran and Jemima must reunite again. They can bridge the gap between East and West, he said. “Think about this. Imran as prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and a British-born woman as the First Lady of Pakistan !”

But back to the Supreme Court verdict. In fact, interestingly, the Supreme Court also let Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif off the hook on the same day by dismissing an appeal of corruption against him. So while Shahbaz praises the Supreme Court, his brother’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, is maligning the same court for disbarring her father.

Certainly in Pakistan these days, it is the Supreme Courts that seem to be running the country. If Shahbaz Sharif survives the Barelvi mullah Khadim Hussain Rizvi’s campaign against his provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah, he will definitely run for prime ministership against Imran Khan in 2018.

Imran Khan, in fact, is becoming a powerful figure in Pakistan. He wants early elections as well as the dissolution of the Assemblies before Senate elections are held in March 2018.He knows the PML-N will get a majority in Senate and this majority will become a problem for him after general elections are held. Some say that PTI and its newfound ally, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), should resign en masse from the provincial assemblies, thereby paving the way for early elections, but Imran seems reluctant to pursue this plan, at least right now.

Meanwhile, he is letting the PML-N totter around, knowing he holds the aces. The day he abandons his reluctance to resign from the assemblies, along with the PPP, that day the PML-N can say goodbye to power.

Does this mean that Nawaz Sharif is finished forever? Of course, nothing is ever finished in politics and no politician is ever down and out forever. Which is why former dictator who overthrew Nawaz Sharif, the one and only Pervez Musharraf, could become a new ally of the PML-N leader in the changing Pakistani political scene. Remember that Pakistan’s judiciary which is deciding the fates of several politicians today – and has even ordered that one of them be hanged in the past – has nothing to say about Musharraf’s treason case. And none other than Nawaz Sharif is using Musharraf’s name again and again to tease the courts.

There’s more. Rumour is that Senator Ishaq Dar, a close associate of Nawaz Sharif, in London for medical treatment, could be arrested by Interpol because of corruption cases against him. But why don’t the same rules apply to Musharraf? That is because, although the laws are the same in Pakistan, different rules apply to civilians and to dictators.

Nawaz Sharif is a classic example of that conundrum. He is determined to fight back and says he will not give up until the ban on his entry into politics is reversed. If Nawaz has the energy to fight, he could become a thorn in the flesh not only for Imran Khan but also for his own brother, Shahbaz – both, of whom, are said to be close to the powerful security establishment.

In Pakistan, at least, there’s never a dull day.

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