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Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has joined Pervez Musharraf as one of the few prominent Pakistani leaders to have 'earned' proclaimed offender status. Nawaz was labeled as such by an accountability court hearing the Toshakhana case after his unsurprising no-show. Nawaz, of course, is in the UK on 'medical bail'. His lawyers argued before the Islamabad High Court that his health has not improved and produced doctor's notes saying that he is not cleared to fly, but, given his recent public and online earances, this is unlikely to be enough to ease the judges, let alone his detractors. It ears clear that this is actually becoming his second foreign exile. However, while questions remain over how he wound up on his Saudi sojourn in the 2000s, there is no question that this one is self-imposed.

The number of Pakistani politicians that go abroad on medical leave and don't come back to face trial must raise questions for the government. Asif Zardari, Musharraf, and now Nawaz are just a few of the more prominent names. Given the scale of allegations against many such leaders, it is also unsurprising that the expected seizure of property in Pakistan when they fail to return has little impact on their lifestyles abroad. It is for these reasons that we offer a suggestion: if the ruling PTI really wants to fight corruption, it should build a world-class hospital in the country.

In the meantime, it can probably forget about putting Nawaz behind bars. This is because, whatever the merits or demerits of the case, Nawaz's fiery anti-government speeches have helped him build a strong case for himself to claim that he is a victim of political persecution. Whether or not that is true, the mere fact that he can plausibly make that argument puts the chances for getting a warrant through Interpol near zero. The agency has long made it a point to stay out of member states' domestic politics. The government will go through the motions, as the court has ordered, but the nature of the reference means that the only realistic way to proceed would be a trial in absentia.

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Publication:The Express Tribune (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Dec 5, 2020
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