Mian, the Bijli Chor

Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif: the Muhammad Shah Rangeela of  corruption in Pakistan

Squeaky clean?
PML-N president Nawaz Sharif made his usual high-flown remarks at a public rally for NA-123, an electoral hotbed for the impending by-election on March 10. What made his declarations stand out this time, however, were the apparent contradictions that floated on the surface of the PML-N president’s assertions. With the Punjab government threatening retribution for power theft, to see their own rally being lit up by illegal electricity connections blatantly shows that no officeholder is innocent of knavish practices. Rana Sanaullah’s rejection of the PML-N’s responsibility, and pinning the blame on the lights and sound organising company, simply ducks the issue. When seen in this ‘light’, most of the rally speech reeks of wry irony.

Mian sahib’s aversion to looking in the mirror is not befitting in this day and age of a relatively free media and a more aware public because of it. Vowing to bring back ‘looted’ money from Swiss bank accounts is all well and good if you have set a benchmark to claim the moral high ground. Accusations have always been rife about Nawaz Sharif’s own shady methods of entrepreneurial conduct: alleged money laundering under the cover of the Hudaibiya Paper Mills back in 1998, extracting loans from the public exchequer to establish his own personal empire of mills, factories and foundries according to the Auditor General’s report in 1988, and tipping off friends and associates about the foreign currency accounts freeze after the nuclear explosions in 1998, allowing many millions to be diverted from Pakistan to rosier international pastures.

One does agree with Mr Sharif on his stand against army takeovers and the defeat of turncoats but, once again, what is sauce for the goose must also be sauce for the gander. The Islamic Democratic Alliance (IDA) was synthesised by the military in the wake of General Ziaul Haq’s death as the new Muslim League, a party of which Nawaz Sharif was very much a central figure. Given power in the Punjab in 1988, Mr Sharif had no qualms in offering the army overseeing power without governing responsibilities. Relying on the military for political backing must have seemed peachy when required, but many a harsh lesson had to be learnt in the loneliness of forced exile after the ousting of the PML-N government by General Musharraf in 1999.

Claiming to honour the Charter of Democracy (CoD) by willing to reach a common ground with the federal government is commendable as, much to the chagrin of most objective observers, the president and his cohorts have made a few bloopers; the judicial standoff being a case in point where the views of a few spin doctors were taken as legitimate advice. However, Mr Sharif has never really toned down his show of aggression whenever an excuse such as this has presented itself to his advantage. Democracy allows for criticism, but it is usually advisable to avoid aggressive opportunism.

Allowing the democratically elected system to follow its own course, no matter how flawed it may seem, is advice that should be adhered to. That does not preclude criticism of the incumbents, but a little sobriety in publicly demonising the established government would serve all the political forces well by establishing civilised norms of democratic discourse.

Monday’s rally has brazenly ‘lit up’ some of the more glaring hypocrisies of PML-N’s stance. Perhaps Mr Sharif has not heard of the popular Biblical adage: ‘Let he who is free of sin, cast the first stone.’



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