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.
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.