The political actors of Pakistan namely the media anchors, journalists, “civil society”, retired civil servants etc have literally been praying for miracles that would force the PPP out of power. Being destructive in their nature, they just cannot expect to see stability of government. When a government is sent packing, their response includes “We said it”, “it had to happen”, “we did it” etc. Their mode of operation is simple like a masala Bollywood film: start a whispering campaign, create instability, use press (now electronic media), cause commotion in the judiciary, incite ethnic and religious issues leading to riots and then just wait. Sooner than later friends become foes and then begin to slit each other’s throat. With the packing up of governments, we become interim ministers, advisers and somehow increase our clout. This is an oft repeated script and most importantly, it has been successful.
With the taming of the judiciary after their mindless conclave on October 14, 2010 and a failed attempt to merge the Muslim Leagues, all eyes were on PML-N, JUI-F and MQM to do what the judiciary and the army hasn’t been able to do – i.e. rock the boat. With another year about to pass, JUI-F and MQM decided to give them a reason to cheer and become hopeful by resigning from their cabinet positions. Permutations and combinations began as to how the outlook will change and how much the government will suffer because of the quitting of MQM and JUI-F. The PML-N leader, Nawaz Sharif, has remained at arm’s length to be part of any unconstitutional change. The only thing that irritates him is being labeled a “friendly opposition”. When this label begins to prick him, he is forced out of his slumber and then the media circus begins again. He roars but then also qualifies the roar that he doesn’t want to be part of any unconstitutional change. One has to ask the following questions as to why Nawaz Sharif chooses not to rock the boat:
- PML-N has been part and parcel of the current government by running the province of Punjab very much on their own. With things not under their control despite the media gimmicks and a “revolutionary” Shahbaz Sharif as Khadim-e-Aala, any unconstitutional change leading to elections can easily force PML-N to lose control of their bastion of power.
- The West especially the US knows of Nawaz Sharif’s inclination towards the religious and bigoted forces. Nawaz Sharif is on record saying that the Taliban’s system is enviable (in 1997). Nawaz Sharif’s party has been supporting the no-drone attacks policy and supporting forces like the Sipah Sahaba and Jamat ud Daawa. A coming to power will force Nawaz Sharif to shun his “allies” which will be detrimental to his power base.
- The Saudis have a liking for Nawaz Sharif, that is well documented and historically proven. But for that liking Nawaz Sharif has delivered for them a playground for Saudi backed extremists to play on their terms. In the current security environment, can Nawaz Sharif permit a playground for extremism in Pakistan?
- Nawaz Sharif has a history of fighting with his benefactors: be it the army (Gen. Asif Nawaz, Gen. Jahangir Karamat, Gen. Pervez Musharraf), establishment (GIK, Farooq Leghari), judiciary (Sajjad Ali Shah), media (Mir Shakil in 1997-98). What is the probability that he will not fight with them again is anyone’s guess.
- With the economic situation not so healthy and various tough choices to be made by whoever is in government which basically means increasing taxes and reducing subsidies, Nawaz Sharif will have a tough time in wading through the tough waters. Will he not increase fuel prices? Will he not implement RGST and increase the tax net? Will he not take loans from the SBP and Banks to reduce fiscal deficits?
- If the US and west become antagonized with Pakistan because of Nawaz Sharif, the first item on the chopping block would be the military aid. If that stops, so does Nawaz Sharif’s train.
- He has a history of antagonizing his allies. The MQM twice (1992 and 1998), ANP on matter of renaming NWFP, and many others in Baluchistan. And more so, he has antagonized his allies even though he had 2/3 majority in the National Assembly.
The list can go on and on. I think there is one more point that is against Nawaz Sharif: the absence of Abbaji. Abbaji Marhoom was known to be the mastermind behind the ascension of his prodigal sons. The younger son has found a wife who can be credited with bringing a revolutionary air to Shahbaz Sharif like singing “jamhooriat” in public, breaking microphones and promises to change his name if the “Do rupay kee roti” doesn’t become successful. On the other hand, Nawaz Sharif has still not found his mojo. A lot was being expected from him post completion of the 10 year agreement of being out of active politics, however, Nawaz Sharif chooses to remain quiet and continue with his slumber. Though I have been playing on all the negatives of the man, maybe, he has become slightly mature.
One can only hope that Nawaz Sharif uses the next 2 years of being out of office to plan the course of his next five years. That is what Pakistan needs that leaders focus on what they can deliver than just play the role of an opposition and play in the hands of the political actors.