It was déjà vu, reminding me of the time when Mr. Nawaz Sharif landed in Pakistan because of a family tragedy, during his mutually arranged exile in Saudi Arabia and found that his party leadership had deserted him. With no crowds and no leader to receive him he was dispatched back to Jeddah. To the politically savvy, who detach themselves from emotive party leanings, the incident was of far reaching significance, as it exposed PML-N’s Achilles heel i.e. the impulse of personal political survival or in the words of a very popular television personality, Punjab’s propensity to “lean with the wind”.
Whatever be the reason, there can be no doubt that barring one Federal Minister, who happened to be at the Lahore Airport because he had arrived at the time on a domestic flight, there was no PML N luminary to provide moral support to their leader and his daughter. Claims that their respective journeys to the airport had been impeded did not generate credibility because large passionate crowds have been known to sweep aside all obstacles to reach their goal. Events were made more questionable, when a former female federal minister, informed the media that she was determined to reach the airport, blissfully ‘ignorant’ of the fact that her leader had already taken off from Lahore and was on the point of touching down at Islamabad. A most interesting scene was staged by the convicted PM’s younger brother and former Chief Minister Punjab, who appeared to be leisurely moving on the route to his ‘alleged destination’ encountering invisible obstructions and was barely able to make Charing Cross, when his brother took off for Adiala. He made matters worse by repeated statements that the entire city of Lahore had turned out into the streets to meet Nawaz Sharif.
Disbelief turned to merriment as we saw live drone footage showing the ‘sea of people’ that had somehow become invisible to the cameras. In, what can only be termed as amazing footage, viewers saw, what the anchor termed as PML-N workers, dancing on the Mall, making one wonder as to what had generated the merrymaking – the arrest of the former head of executive and his daughter? The mystery was further compounded by conflicting statements given by some former Federal Ministers, one of whom said that they never intended to go to the Airport; if this was true, then why all the fuss of fiery speeches and rallies.
While the Pakistan People’s Party may not generate a ruling majority in the elections, its young leader (who in many ways reflects his mother’s charisma) appears to have infused a new momentum in the Party. It goes to the young man’s credit that he is seen making successful efforts to regain the trust of old party stalwarts. He is lucid, logical and soft-spoken, creating a connection between himself and his party workers. As I said, his Party may not win the forthcoming polls, but he appears to be wearing the mantle of the Bhutto legacy well.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf, is maintaining its momentum in the final build up to 25th July. For a change, someone sensible appears to be formulating its election strategy, such as not holding mammoth gatherings as it did in 2013 and focusing on constituency based interaction with voters. One feels an overwhelming optimism, when talking to PTI workers and midlevel leadership, a vast majority of which are expecting to sweep the polls and form a government. This is a notion that needs to be toned down to realistic levels. Even if Khan Sahib’s candidates win much of their seats, they will still be required to forge a coalition for the required majority. Such an arrangement with PPP appears far and dim, notwithstanding the fact that everything is possible in politics, but PTI stands to gain a securer footing by getting together with what may be a fairly large number of winning independent candidates.
In any case, Election Day is just around the corner. For Pakistan these elections will be a defining moment. The nation will have to set aside age old ethnic, feudal and ‘biradari’ loyalties and direct only a single question to themselves – Do they want a Pakistan as Jinnah envisioned it or are they content with what has happened in the past seven decades of our history.
The writer is a freelance columnist.