In an earlier column, I had drawn a parallel between the ‘Land of the Pure’ and Lewis Carol’s mythical kingdom beyond the ‘rabbit hole’. The similarities had roots in what we have been watching day and night on the political chessboard. Topping the list of players since the last three decades, is our political leadership that has developed the art of running affairs of the state from across the seas.
Take for example MQM, which ruled Karachi in accordance with instructions received from its founder, who is ‘happily’ ensconced in the United Kingdom or the PPP, which invented the practice of holding meetings of the Provincial Cabinet in Dubai. Although Mr. Nawaz Sharif was a vociferous critic of this trend, he tossed his political morals (perhaps even his patriotic fervor) to the winds and has taken up the practice of summoning the sitting Prime Minister and selected members of his cabinet to London, for meetings.
The most galling aspect of the situation is that we, the citizens appear to have acquiesced to what is happening, having shamelessly accepted the fact that there is nothing amiss if our future is decided by corrupt politicians from their luxurious safe havens abroad. In doing so we have surrendered our national pride and indirectly our sovereignty to a coterie of political players, who have no stakes in their homeland. These individuals have nothing at risk since they can flee to their adopted destinations whenever threatened by accountability and punishment.
Current television pictures indicate lines of extreme worry on the disqualified Prime Minister’s face, which are not due to concern over his spouse’s health alone. Mr. Nawaz Sharif’s embarrassing trip to Saudi Arabia has perhaps increased these lines manifold. If reports coming out of the Saudi Capital are to be believed, the visitor was coldly ignored, to return empty handed raising the interesting question as to what prompted the trip. Some say that so driven is the Sharif Family in a corner that Saudi intervention was being sought for an NRO. If this is true then the move was very naïve without taking ground realities into account - reality underlined by the news that the Sharif Family does not carry the same respect amongst the Ruling Family in Riyadh that they once did.
There are also reports that the ex PM is much upset on the scale of public outcry after his ouster and the difficulties of generating numbers during his court appearances. Sources within PML N say that it is getting more and more difficult to gather crowds with each passing day and this is causing a wave of concern amongst hawks within the party. I am not surprised at this diminishing response since I am witness to utterly disappointing scenes at the airport, when the Sharif’s made an attempt to land at Islamabad during General Musharraf’s tenure. What PML N is perhaps overlooking is the notion how Pakistan’s main political antagonists attract crowds. PTI has Imran Khan’s charisma and upfront approach that pulls numbers spontaneously. In sharp contrast, PML N has to bus in much of what we see on our screens and that too ‘at some cost’.
Time is Mr. Nawaz Sharif’s biggest ally and his bitterest enemy. Delaying court proceedings till legislation reinstating him or in the least making him eligible to contest the next election, is something that the Sharif’s desperately desire. On the flip side, each passing day appears to be diluting public eagerness to take to the streets, in the ex PM’s support. This dilution may also have roots in the intra family power struggle that cannot be wished away by issuing vehement denials and the chasms within the Party with connections to this family conflict.
And so the people wait, watching each episode of the drama unfolding before them. This wait has one core element i.e. hope. Hope that they will one day soon, witness accountability of the corrupt and putting into place a system that eliminates the possibility of corrupt politician coming into power.
The writer is a freelance columnist.