Head­ing Into Dark­ness

The fu­ture of Pak­istani pol­i­tics seems to be headed into a dark alley. The fate of the largest po­lit­i­cal party, the PML ( N), hangs in the bal­ance while al­ter­nate lead­er­ship within the party or even out­side it does not prom­ise much.

Southasia - - FRONT PAGE - By S. M. Hali

Only months af­ter he was dis­qual­i­fied from hold­ing pub­lic of­fice, Mian Nawaz Sharif was also barred by the Supreme Court of Pak­istan from lead­ing his own party. The SC in­val­i­dated amend­ments to the Elec­tions Act, 2017, which had al­lowed Nawaz Sharif to re­main leader of the PML-N. This is bound to raise a host of le­gal and po­lit­i­cal ques­tions.

The ques­tion be­ing asked is, “If the PML (N) is prac­ti­cally out of the equa­tion, what are the other op­tions?”

This must be taken with a pinch of salt since the Se­nate elec­tions have in­di­cated that the PML (N) may be down but it is not out. In fact, it is try­ing to fight back with a vengeance. It al­ready has the req­ui­site ma­jor­ity in the Na­tional Assem­bly and, with a lit­tle ma­noeu­vring, can swing the Se­nate vote to in­cor­po­rate con­sti­tu­tional changes, which will clip the wings of the Ju­di­ciary as well as the Armed Forces. It will first re­visit the dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion clause to en­sure that Mian Nawaz Sharif is back in the driv­ing seat. De­spite the fact that a num­ber of PML (N) votes in Pun­jab went to the PTI can­di­date, past pat­terns in­di­cate that some PML (N) mem­bers are op­por­tunists who sit on the fence and cast their lot with which­ever side is tilt­ing heav­ier or pays more.

Nawaz Sharif’s ire to­wards the Ju­di­ciary is an open se­cret. He be­lieves he got the short end of the stick in the dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion case and feels dis­par­aged that he is be­ing vic­timised in the cor­rup­tion case too. Nawaz Sharif as­pires to re­duce the re­tir­ing age for the judges from 65 to 60 years, which, if the amend­ment sails through, will rid him of the “med­dle­some” Chief Jus­tice Saqib Nisar ear­lier than his pre­scribed time. The other as­pect in the ju­di­cial genre is clip­ping the wings of the jus­tices in re­mov­ing the suo moto clause. Nawaz Sharif feels that the Chief Jus­tice of the present times is “nosey” and has been us­ing his pow­ers un­der the suo moto clause to “in­ter­fere” in cases which have not been re­ferred to the es­teemed courts by any re­spon­dent.

De­spite his pre­vi­ous three stints as Prime Min­is­ter, Mian Nawaz Sharif has failed to tame the Army per se. It is ironic that he has been let down each time by his hand­picked Army Chief. Nawaz Sharif has been shoot­ing barbs and taunts to­wards the Army de­spite hav­ing cho­sen the cur­rent Army Chief per­son­ally, af­ter su­per­sed­ing oth­ers, yet he has not been able to ap­point a Chief who would be a “yes-man.” He for­gets that the Army Chief, at the end of the day, has to face his Corp Com­man­ders, who can be quite vo­cal in giv­ing their two cents worth in var­i­ous mat­ters of the state. In or­der to “dis­ci­pline” the Armed Forces and keep them un­der the thumb of the gov­ern­ment, it is be­ing con­tem­plated that all pro­mo­tions of two stars and above will be sub­ject to ap­proval by the gov­ern­ment.

The logic now be­ing put for­ward is that the swelling masses in po­lit­i­cal ral­lies vin­di­cate his in­dict­ment by the courts. The for­mer prime min­is­ter

for­gets rent-a-crowds are no sub­sti­tute for democ­racy. In case the Ju­di­ciary finds Nawaz Sharif and his fam­ily guilty of the cor­rup­tion charges, it will be a se­vere blow to PML (N). There are chances that Shah­baz Sharif may also face cor­rup­tion charges and in case he fails to clear his name, the dy­nas­tic rule of the Shar­ifs may come to an end. This would lead to chaos and may­hem since no de­scen­dant has been groomed other that Maryam Nawaz (Saf­dar) at the cen­tre and Hamza Shah­baz in Pun­jab. The duo too faces cor­rup­tion charges.

With the Shar­ifs out of the equa­tion, PML (N) may be run­ning hel­ter skel­ter to join other po­lit­i­cal par­ties. The two other con­tenders for the throne are PPP and PTI. PPP has been tried be­fore and has lost its pop­u­lar­ity and may not fare bet­ter in the 2018 elec­tions if they are held on time.

The prob­lem with PTI is that it has fallen prey to some of the very dis­or­der it has been fight­ing against. Hav­ing spent the pre­vi­ous ten­ure in con­fronta­tional pol­i­tics, PTI did not achieve its de­vel­op­ment goals in KPK. Vot­ers would be dis­in­clined to vote en masse for PTI as yet. The de­ba­cle at Lodhran should have been an eye opener for Im­ran Khan. He fielded the son of a dis­qual­i­fied par­lia­men­tar­ian for the seat, which PML (N) bagged, con­trary to its own ex­pec­ta­tions, since Im­ran negated the very prin­ci­ples he had once stood for. If the past is an in­di­ca­tor of the fu­ture, de­spite his per­sonal clean record, Im­ran will not be able to clinch vic­tory in the next elec­tions, un­less he changes his ad­vi­sors. The by­e­elec­tion at Sar­godha too was a catas­tro­phe for PTI. A point to pon­der for Im­ran Khan should be how 17 to 20 par­lia­men­tar­i­ans of KPK sold their souls to Mephistophe­les and switched their al­le­giance in the Se­nate elec­tions.

Per­haps the best op­tion would be to have an in­terim gov­ern­ment not for ninety days but per­haps for a year or even more. The task for the pro­vi­sional gov­ern­ment should be to hold across-the-board ac­count­abil­ity. It is time that the peo­ple of Pak­istan get lead­ers who are clean and de­pend­able. The na­tion has tremen­dous po­ten­tial but lacks states­men who can lead it. It is es­sen­tial that the de­vel­op­ment projects planned and en­vis­aged by the plan­ning com­mis­sion are ex­e­cuted with dili­gence and sin­cer­ity. The scarce re­sources of the coun­try have been plun­dered and looted while the cof­fers of the rulers have been filled with the wealth of the na­tion, which was squan­dered and plun­dered. It will re­quire a Her­culean ef­fort to clean the Aegean Sta­bles but un­less the play­ing field is cleared of the hubris and de­bris, the fu­ture of Pak­istan’s pol­i­tics seems bleak.

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