Nawaz’s crowning glory – Fasi Zaka

Nawaz Sharif has finally achieved what no one has been able to do in politics for the past two years, which is to make Asif Ali Zardari’s PPP look good by comparison. He inadvertently whitewashed them when he decided to skinny-dip in mud and rake it simultaneously over constitutional reforms.

Nawaz’s backtracking on the constitutional reforms’ issue seemed bizarre when it played itself out and especially insincere by way of his explanations on the reasons for doing so.

Mr Sharif’s main objection is rooted in a misunderstanding, probably willful, populist and deceptive, on the nature of government. When he talks about certain permanent institutions and offices, he is speaking of the individuals and not the posts.

First, he has befuddled himself by thinking Dr Babar Awan will be the law minister forever. That “Dr” Babar Awan has made it this far is a miracle considering he has a one-year distance PhD from an institution dissolved and fined for fraud. But, if Nawaz has an objection, he needs to articulate it in terms of the law ministry being involved in the recruitment of judges and not Babar Awan.

Second, in the desire to appease the chief justice on the same issue he makes the same mistake. It rings hollow when he says he wants the office of the chief justice involved, primarily because he doesn’t want the chief justice’s office, but in a rather sycophant fashion, wants the chief justice himself involved. Had the chief justice been Sajjad Ali Shah or Dogar, Nawaz would be singing a different tune.

For those of us who have been extremely disappointed with the PPP’s mismanagement, corruption and cronyism, in addition to their willful delaying tactics to all things related to judges, for the longest time Nawaz seemed like an elder statesman who could eventually take the reigns.

The press in general has fallen into the trap. As long as Nawaz was quiet, the press projected rather flattering presumptions on what motivates the PML-N. But as of late, when the PML-N does speak, most realise they don’t like what they hear.

Be it Shahbaz’s veiled support for the Taliban, or more currently, Nawaz’s obvious shortsightedness and Punjab-centric behaviour. Nawaz does not become a champion of rule of law simply because the current phase of judicial activism has worked in his favour. While Nawaz has been on the right side of history in supporting the lawyer’s movement, in reality it is fast becoming evident that it was just an opportunistic coincidence of interests.

Add to it the Pakhtunkhwa issue. The demand for changing the name of the province is not as Nawaz makes it out to be. Any party with an electoral interest in NWFP, but which fails to capture the Pakhtun votes, has sided against this. By simple force of majority, the name ought to be changed, and the reasons for not doing so are easily challenged since they rest on demographics. The Pakhtuns are in the majority, much like the other provinces which are named after the majority ethnic groups. To deny them this is blatantly unfair.

That being said, the macho chest-beating of the ANP’s Ghulam Ahmed Bilour’s over the issue of Pakhtunkhwa that they may choose the Bengali model evokes some of the unarticulated and historical fears about why the rest of the county may not want the name change. But it’s rich posturing from a man whose party’s leader fled his hometown to avoid dealing with the Taliban, leaving the residents defenceless, or from a party happy to let the Taliban have Swat so they could keep their heads in the sand. Talk is cheap, but sadly it can be incendiary.

My own preference would have been, on an ideological basis, that the Pakhtuns give up their demands to accommodate a minority in a show of inner federal behaviour, demonstrating that they would not do what the center has historically done to the smaller provinces, and in this case not do to a smaller ethnic group inside the province what has historically been done to them. Sadly that won’t happen in Pakistan, at least now.

Anyhow, Nawaz shouldn’t worry too much. The microscope is about to be lifted back to Zardari thanks to the delay he requested in announcing the findings of the UN report on the murder of Benazir Bhutto. In an arena of shortsightedness, Nawaz and Zardari are the kings.

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

Source: The News, April 01, 2010



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