Verbal diarrhoea of Shahbaz Sharif – by Fasi Zaka

Imagine a situation where you have to speak before a large crowd. Right there and then, even though you are not a cow, you discover you have foot-and-mouth disease. That is to say, you mistakenly put your foot in your mouth.

Shahbaz Sharif did that just recently, when he argued that the Taliban should not attack Lahore because like the Taliban, his party, the PML-N, was also against Musharraf. He said, “We in the PML-N opposed his policies and rejected dictation from abroad, and if the Taliban are also fighting for the same cause, then they should not carry out acts of terror in Punjab.”

He claims that his remarks were taken out of context. That’s a flimsy excuse when he doesn’t offer an explanation for what kind of context justifies a statement like the one he made. And as far as the issue of foreign dictation goes, they seem to have forgotten their extended sojourn in Saudi Arabia.

At least, the outrage is there over this kind of appeasement. Of course, the theatrics of the PML-Q’s Nighat Orakzai run shallow. It’s odd that she asked Shahbaz to wear a dupatta and stay home bound because that’s what women supposedly do? Talk of betraying one’s own gender. But the real issue is something else. For the longest time people have suspected of the Taliban sympathies of the PML-N, and in this statement they hope they have found a smoking gun.

The Punjab assembly has been passing silly resolutions under the tutelage of Shahbaz Sharif, like the outrage over cheap midnight mobile calls because they lead to “vulgar” talks between the sexes. The Taliban comment is not the only evidence of reactionary thinking.

The PML-N has been coasting for sometime, immune to the rabid accusations against the PPP. In their anger of the corruption of this government, many observers have blindly sided with the PML-N. But other than supporting the judiciary, which is in its interest, what do we know of the party that will set it apart, especially from its previous terms when the party leader wanted to be the Amir-ul-Momineen? The PML-N had a terrible record of both attempted authoritarianism and muzzling the press. If anything, we have learnt from Asif Ali Zardari that rough times do not reform people; they just go back to their old self the moment they are safe and comfortable.

Given that the PML-N is, for all purposes, a government in waiting, its narrowsightedness is worrisome. Thanks to the PPP’s self-destructive incompetence, the PML-N needs to stand up and be ready to be a national party. It cannot do that by asking for special concessions for Punjab from terrorists, or for that matter, having law ministers cavorting with sectarian organisations in public.

Despite the PPP dragging its feet on the Taliban, it finally committed itself to battling them. If we are to treat Shahbaz’s statement as a Freudian slip, then it bodes poorly for the strides made in battling the cancer that is the Taliban. This desire to negotiate is based on a perverted world view that these murderers have something holy about them.

Yes, say no to foreign dictation. But also say no to domestic terrorists.

The writer is a Rhodes scholar and former academic. Email:

Source: The News



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