Chaos and political uncertainty continue to grip Pakistan since former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the apex court last year. Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal just narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on Sunday. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif was disqualified by Islamabad High Court last month. Former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has already resigned and preferred to stay in London to escape criminal proceedings against him in the Accountability Court. PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif would soon be in trouble as the CJP has ordered the anti-terrorism court to hear the Model Town case on daily basis. National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is also probing many cases of alleged corruption and irregularities against Shehbaz Sharif and other government ministers. Nawaz Sharif, who has already been disqualified for life by the apex court, is likely to be convicted in various corruption cases by the Accountability Court before the next general elections. So, the political future of PML-N and its prominent leaders is just hanging in the balance. The disgruntled Nawaz Sharif is now seeing the ‘aliens’ who will be managing the upcoming general elections to his disadvantage. Federal Government has almost become dysfunctional. The so-called judicial activism has just given rise to certain administrative anomalies in the country Amid this administrative chaos, politicos are busy in making fierce attacks on their political opponents, making politics a dirty game whose players are not abide by any rule.
According to initial investigation, the attacker targeted the Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal over the amendment in Khattam-e-Nabuwat (Finality of Prophethood) law introduced by the PML-N government. Reportedly, the attacker is associated with the ultra-religious organisation Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA), which blocked Islamabad for three weeks in November last year. Few months ago, another man threw a shoe at Ahsan Iqbal for similar reason. Similarly, the person who threw a shoe at Nawaz Sharif during a ceremony in Lahore was also influenced by this religious ideology. There certainly raised many eyebrows when the Kattam-e-Nabuwat issue instantly surfaced and soon became the most contentious issue in Pakistan last year. The government introduced a minor amendment in the electoral laws regarding the oath of parliamentarians. However, later, this controversial amendment was withdrawn and the law was restored in its original form. So, there was really no justification for such a massive agitation and protest over this issue as did TLYRA last year.
Many believe that TLYRA chief Khadim Rizvi, during his sit-in in Islamabad, tried to blow this sensitive issue out of proportion just to weaken the troubled PML-N government. There is also a conspiracy theory explaining the role of some ‘aliens’ who are trying to marginalise PML-N politically ahead of general elections by giving some impetus to the Khatam-e-nabuwat issue in Pakistan. Indeed, a number of attacks recently made at some prominent PML-N leaders, including Nawaz Sharif, just reinforce these sorts of conspiracy theories. There is also a likelihood that TLYRA would try to revive this issue before the elections, making PML-N leaders more vulnerable to physical attacks by the religious zealots. Consequently, the PML-N election candidates would not be able to run their electoral campaign freely and fearlessly. That would just be another unfortunate development.
In fact, no one can know or understand ‘aliens’ better than does Nawaz Sharif. He is the person who was politically launched by these extra-territorial beings in early 1980s. Later, they played a pivotal role in forming the IJI, a nine-party right-wing conservative political alliance, to politically benefit Nawaz Sharif in 1988 general elections. Similarly, the Asghar Khan case, which has been decided by the Apex court, essentially shows that these so-called aliens manoeuvred to ensure Nawaz Sharif’s victory in 1990 general elections. It is no more a secret that the military establishment has been managing the country’s politics in one way or the other. Field Marshal Ayub Khan introduced a controlled democracy in Pakistan. General Zia-ul-Haq tried to ‘Islamise’ democracy. Later, General Pervez Musharraf tried to rectify the country’s democratic maladies through his own political party, the PML(Q). However, these ‘democratic initiatives’ taken by the military rulers hardly help improve the state and quality of democracy in Pakistan. Instead, they have just given rise to a culture of political opportunism and corruption.
Nawaz Sharif is currently speaking against the ‘aliens’ who just helped him come into the corridors of power. The relations between Nawaz Sharif and the military establishment started deteriorating as soon as NS came into power in 2013. In fact, this sort of confrontation has essentially been a characteristic feature of NS’s tenures as prime minister in the country. NS’s so-called Indian policy has been the major source of Civ-Mil tension in Pakistan. As usual, after being elected as prime minister, NS over-optimistically tried to instantly improve the bilateral ties with India absolutely ignoring the ground realities. PM Modi never seriously tried to reciprocate NS’s goodwill gesture. While Pak-India bilateral relations were gradually deteriorating, NS keenly strived to establish close personal relations with Modi. Similarly, NS’s secret ties with Indian steel tycoon Sajjan Jindal have also been a mystery. NS is also blamed for responding poorly to the case of Indian spy Kulbhushan Yadav. The ill-timed and poorly executed criminal trial of Pervez Musharraf for high treason under Article 6 of the constitution is generally considered to be the major spoiler of NS’s relationship with the establishment.
Nawaz Sharif only tried to reconcile with the military establishment when he was at low ebb politically on account of Panamagate scandal. He also scapegoated his two important aides Pervez Rashid and Taiq Fatemi over Dawn Leaks to appease the military establishment. But these half-hearted efforts miserably failed in improving his strained relations with the establishment. Perhaps, by that time, the military establishment has finally decided to get rid of its ‘Frankenstein’s monster’.
In an impressive public rally at Minar-e-Pakistan Lahore last month, PTI unveiled its 11-point agenda to make a ‘Naya Pakistan’. The underlying theme of this agenda was ‘One Pakistan’, which largely relates to evolve a new socio-political order in Pakistan based on egalitarianism, pluralism, social justice and the rule of law. In fact, PTI has announced an inspiring and appealing election manifesto in the form of this 11-point agenda. To me, this development is even more pleasant and pleasing as PTI, at least, did and thought something beyond its anti-Nawaz Sharif rhetoric. Indeed, political parties are supposed to do some healthy and constructive things rather than bashing and cursing their political opponents all the time.
It is quite ironic the political leaders like Nawaz Sharif are talking about improving the state of judicial system while the superior judiciary has assumed the role of the executive in the name of judicial activism. This is a worrisome situation. It is very important that all the state institutions must learn to perform their institutional functions efficiently and diligently while remaining within their respective legal domains. Currently, there is a strong perception that PML-N is being politically victimized in the name of accountability. The superior judiciary is only disqualifying PML-N legislators. And the accountability agencies are probing corruption cases against PML-N ministers while sparring individuals belonging to other political parties, especially PPP. There should certainly be an across-the-board accountability derive. Accountability should not be used as a tool to do ‘political engineering’ in the country. All political parties must be offered a level-playing field in the next general elections. Politicos can’t afford to act irresponsibly as a political class. They must learn to abide by some rules of the game.
The writer is a lawyer and columnist based in Lahore.