Does PML-N have a death wish?
Reluctance to face ground realities
In the immediate aftermath of Sharif’s son-in-law Captain (r) Safdar’s diatribe against the Ahmadis in the National Assembly, a despondent senior PML-N stalwart confided in me: ‘It seems we have a death wish’. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has, however, underplayed the whole episode by declaring it an emotional outburst rather than hate speech.
Had it been an isolated incident one could have agreed with the PM. But unfortunately this is not the case.
The fracas orchestrated by PML-N goons in the garb of ‘black coats’ outside the NAB court on Friday morning, where Sharif, his daughter Maryam and her husband were to be indicted, betrays a certain mindset of the Sharif family.
This is not the first time that the PML-N has attacked the courts trying their leader. It is a replay of 1997 when PML-N stalwarts led by some ministers attacked the Supreme Court building where CJP Sajjad Ali Shah was hearing a contempt petition against Nawaz Sharif.
There is certainly a method in the madness. The hapless accountability judge was forced to postpone the indictment till next Thursday. Obviously it seems the erstwhile first family wants to drag matters as much as possible in the accountability court.
Maryam, known to be a hardliner, is playing her own brand of politics. While in power Sharif, led by his obsessive penchant to install his daughter as the heir apparent, lost everything. But perhaps he has learnt no lessons.
It seems she has an anti-military bias that is manifesting itself in her husband’s antics as well. Establishment of the Dr Abdus Salam chair at Quaid-i-Azam University, in the name of the Ahmadi Nobel prize winner physicist, and the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Salman Taseer, both happened on the elder Sharif’s watch. Reportedly in Maryam’s close circle of advisors there are some who have their own anti-army agenda.
According to leader of the opposition in the senate, Ch Aitzaz Ahsan, Safdar’s outburst against the Ahmadis was a crude attempt to target the COAS (chief of army staff) General Qamar Javed Bajwa. The COAS, when he was handpicked by Sharif for the top slot, did face a whispering campaign deliberately orchestrated by some senior members of the institution to block him.
Obviously since it was a canard spread by Bajwa’s detractors it never gained traction. But it is indeed a shame that Sharif as prime minister after disregarding the hate campaign based on lies and choosing the best man for the job has not distanced himself from his son-in-law’s virulent hate campaign.
The DG ISPR (inter services public relations) Major General Asif Ghafoor has rightly pointed out that no one has to give an explanation to anyone whether he is a Muslim. This is a matter between Allah and him.
Punjab’s law minister, Rana Sanaullah, suffers from a chronic foot in the mouth disease. He has gone to the other extreme by declaring Ahmadis as Muslims for all practical purposes, barring that they do not believe in finality of prophethood. His boss Shahbaz Sharif should order him to retract his statement that has given unnecessary impetus to the antagonistic campaign of the mullahs.
Notwithstanding the hooliganism by lawyers belonging to the ruling party and son-in-law in chief’s outbursts the PML-N seems to be unravelling from within. Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali’s — the quintessential turncoat and opportunist — sudden departure from the party should not surprise anyone.
Jamali, who was handpicked by General Musharraf to be prime minister but could not last owing to his effete life style, sensed the winds of change like a classic weathercock. The ruling party should not lament such charlatans leaving the party. In fact it should expect more to follow.
Thirty-seven MNAs, led by a few federal ministers including Riaz Pirzda, are still upset about a letter ostensibly written by the DG IB (intelligence bureau) to investigate their links with jihadists. Although the prime minister declared on the floor of the parliament that the letter incriminating them was never written and was fake, the matter is still festering.
While Sharif is in London tending to his ailing wife and at the same time avoiding the gauntlet of the NAB, Abbasi is either clueless or helpless (or perhaps both). It seems that the ousted prime minister is running the government by remote control from London through his handpicked principal secretary Fawad Hasan Fawad.
But most interesting is the curious case of Ishaq Dar. Already indicted by the NAB court and being grilled by the prosecution he is assiduously sticking to his job as finance minister.
According to some media reports Dar is neither quitting nor has the prime minister asked him to hand in his papers. Understandably Abbasi is reluctant to read the riot act to his predecessor’s samdhi.
The army chief, in a recent national security committee meeting in which Dar was present, expressed his misgivings about the state of the economy. Now he has chosen to go public.
He rightly linked national security with the economy. It is axiomatic that without a strong economic base national security cannot be sustained forever.
Ominously the COAS cited the example of breakup of the former Soviet Union. After all the erstwhile superpower was challenging the US with its vast arsenal of nuclear warheads and almost 300 divisions strong army. However owing to political turmoil resulting from dire economic straits the USSR imploded from within.
Dar was not only the economic czar but a political fixer as well. Reportedly in a depressed state of mind owing to the misfortunes that have befallen him recently, he is now a shadow of himself.
Even if all was fine his recipes to uplift the economy stopped working beyond a certain point. Never a team player he has no allies within the ruling party. Even Shahbaz Sharif, who was initially responsible for inducting him in politics, can no longer claim to be close to him.
The prime minister, a businessman himself and an old PML-N stalwart, has a fair idea of how to run the economy. He should be allowed to choose his own team. But ostensibly Sharif is not willing to give him space.
Nevertheless as matters stand the PML-N government at the federal level is hamstrung thanks to its own inner contradictions and shenanigans. Maryam’s strong-arm tactics probably sanctioned by her father will only lead the party down the road of unmitigated disaster.
Some speculate that it has been already decided that Shahbaz Sharif will be the PML-N’s nominee for the post of prime minister in the next general elections. Nonetheless ground realities mitigate otherwise. The nucleus of the Sharif family does not seem to be ready or willing for the transition.
By Arif Nizami
The writer is Editor, Pakistan Today. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.