It was in the early hours of 5th July 1977 that General Zia ul Haq staged a successful coup against the elected government of Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, promising to restore democracy within forty days and returning to barracks – Zia’s rule lasted for almost eleven years, only ending when he met a tragic end in a controversial C130 disaster. In 1980, the military government’s search for an urban leader, led the Punjab Governor Ghulam Jilani Khan to a young man named Nawaz Sharif. Groomed, mentored and ‘managed’ by General Zia and Jilani, the young man rose rapidly in Pakistan’s political hierarchy, moving from the office of the Punjab Finance Ministry to that of Chief Minister. Mr. Sharif’s sponsorship continued after the death of his mentor in the Bahawalpur Air Crash and he was ushered into mainstream politics through the notoriously reputed formation of the IJI.
It was perhaps the elevation of an individual (who was once a quiet and humble person) to the corridors of real power that unleashed his true personality. As time went by, Nawaz Sharif began to manifest traits such as autocratic decision making in party matters, misuse of public office, arrogance, disdain for the notion of accountability and an insatiable hunger for absolute power and wealth. This would perhaps have gone unnoticed had it been accompanied by good governance. Regretfully, good governance in the Sharif Family vocabulary did not mean healthcare, clean drinking water, education, prompt justice, speedy and efficient public services, secure law and order and a corruption free society. Ironically enough, Nawaz Sharif and his cronies adopted a cosmetic route, violating every rule in the ‘manual of good government’. They built mass transit systems, roads and flyovers as edifices of their tenures, while corruption proliferated to new levels and the country’s financial management became an unmitigated disaster.
In short PML N gradually morphed into a party of leaders and beneficiaries, who considered themselves above the law in a system, where money could buy anything. So, when a few good men made it known to the Sharif Family that their notion of immunity was delusionary and that every Pakistani (especially those holding public office) were answerable to the law of the land, hell broke loose. All vestiges of decorum and respect for national institutions was thrown to the wind in statements and public meetings. Little did the disqualified PM and his daughter realize that their raving and ranting was to say the least, incredibly dichotomous.
It is indeed strange that a politician ‘spawned’ by a military dictator should speak of democracy, strange also is his consistent thread related to the sanctity of the ballot, when he was undeniably instrumental in trampling this sanctity in the historic background of how IJI was formed. Criticism on judicial impartiality appears ridiculous since the disqualified PM himself, played a key role in the Justice Qayyum scandal. Mr. Nawaz Sharif’s diatribe against horse trading during the recent election of the Senate Chairman and Deputy Chairman appears out of place because we all know the story of how he held legislators under quarantine in Changa Manga lest they change loyalties.
I look back in time and see a long gone line of politicians, who in one way or another shaped our destiny for better or for worse. They may all have had their inner desires and ambitions, but they played their politics with dignity and decorum. Even the young and charismatic PPP heiress Benazir Bhutto, displayed her political breeding by abstaining from undignified point scoring. It is this new breed of ‘young PML N Turks’ egged on by their desperate leader and his daughter, who are putting the ghosts of their predecessors to shame by breaking all norms of decency and language. We who have heard our Founding Father move millions by his oratory skills and then witnessed ZAB, another master of public speaking hold his audience on every word, can do nothing but hang our heads in shame.
The writer is a freelance columnist.