In utter desperation, the ruling PML-N is quoting the names of political heavyweights and former prime ministers (PMs) of Pakistan. Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy was the most popular leader of East Pakistan and was also Chief Minister of undivided Bengal. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto entered the political arena as a cabinet member of Iskander Mirza’s government and remained a part of the Ayub regime. Both PMs were barristers, orators and populist leaders who earned their political wings through struggle and sacrifice.

Ayub Khan’s EBDO (Elected Bodies Disqualification Ordinance) could not knock him out. He presented his own defence in the Military Tribunal and prevailed as no impropriety could be proven against him. Before he opened his defence he warned the nation with the following words, “A country cannot survive in which a Lt. Col. presides over the trial of a Prime Minister”. Thirteen years later Pakistan was dismembered. Suharwardy, after his exoneration, went into self-exile and started living in Beirut. Till his last breath, he remained the greatest threat to the establishment as he was upright, popular and able. His death remains a mystery till today. One morning he was found dead in a hotel where he was staying in the capital city of Lebanon.

Bhutto emerged from the shadows of the establishment, but like Suharwardy, he too launched an anti-establishment political party. He launched a movement against Ayub Khan which eventually toppled his government. Initially, he was not taken seriously by the establishment politicos. The progressives rallied around his socialist manifesto. In the first free and fair elections held in 1970, his Pakistan People’s Party won 81 out of 138 seats in West Pakistan while Suharwady’s Awami League under Mujib-ur-Rehman won 160 out of 162 seats in the Eastern Wing.

After the fall of the Bhutto government in 1977, General Zia targeted his party. Three individuals were shortlisted in Punjab. Mian Nawaz Sharif was one of them. While Pir Pagaro succeeded in getting the Prime Minister’s slot for his nominee Muhammad Khan Junejo, Zia managed to bag the Chief Minister Punjab’s position for Mian Sahib. There was no turning back. A Lahore based establishment goon had been launched. When Junejo tried to be his own man, Mian Sahib conspired with the dictator to topple him.

Then came the infamous IJI (Islami Jamahoori Ittehad) the brainchild of Lt Gen Hamid Gul, to knock out Benazir Bhutto in the 1990 elections. The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) has already ordered to punish the culprits, the decision remains un-implemented. Ishaq Khan, the ‘Baboo’ President promised the interim PM Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi continuation in office if elected, but Mian Sahib turned the tables and managed to take control of the government. By 1992, Mian Sahib had assumed complete control of the country and its largest province. Massive infrastructure projects were launched. While the large kickbacks were for the Sharif family, smaller benefits were left for the party and its workers at the cost of plunder of the nation’s resources. Today, PML-N has become a party of interests, it is no longer a political outfit as it claims.

Justice Asif Khosa has rightly mentioned the famous novel ‘The Godfather’ to describe the corruption of the Sharif clan. In Government College Lahore, Asif Khosa was a great debater. As a judge he has to listen more and speak less but when he talks the sparks still fly. Justice Gulzar is not too far behind in his assertions about the corruption of the royal family. From Gawalmandi to Model Town to Jatti Umra, the trail is evident.

Both Suharwardy and Bhutto emerged through free and fair elections. They were backed by the power of the masses. Mian Sahib was launched through manipulated ballots and continues to win elections through questionable methods. Electoral reforms are crucial to determine the will of the people and to diffuse the unholy influence of PML-N over the administrative machinery. Biometric identification is vital and can be carried out with the assistance of NADRA and mobile telephone service providers. CCTV cameras can also be installed in all polling stations to record the entire electoral process.

After 1970, ten elections have been manipulated for desired results with 2013 being the latest. Elections in 2018 will be equally disputed unless massive electoral reforms are carried out. Only a leader who emerges with the power of the ballot can take on the establishment, Mian Sahib does not enjoy that grassroots support. Most PML-N workers are either paid employees of the party or the beneficiary of its policies of plunder. Politics of resistance is not their forte as was seen during the Musharraf era when Mian Sahib and his family were unable to force their homecoming.

The judicial murder of Bhutto was only possible after the Quaid-e-Awan had surrounded himself with status-quo politicians who were willing to jump the ship when it landed in troubled waters. Mian Sahib and his party of interests is not equipped to face the brewing storm. At best, he can gain time or appoint an interim PM to complete the term till next elections in 2018. There are trade-offs in both approaches. Time will allow them the opportunity to increase their loot but will also force electoral reforms which does not suit parties like PML-N. The nation still mourns the loss of leaders like Suharwardy and Bhutto. Suharwady could have saved Quaid’s Pakistan whose breakup he had predicted during his defence. Bhutto, during his mock trial wrote that Himalayas will cry if I am assassinated. It is interesting, the individuals who attacked him hiding behind the same mountains are now crying. Once they are knocked out of the political arena, there will be a sigh of relief. They will be remembered as an establishment nightmare that finally ended in the highest court of the country after tormenting the people of Pakistan for over three decades. More than ever before, the nation awaits the emergence of leaders like Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto whose legacies are everlasting while it will be better off by getting rid of rulers like Nawaz Sharif and his brother.