The agonising decline of Nawaz Sharif and his family, out of corridors of power and into the forgotten annals of history, reached its lowest point (yet) earlier this week – with Nawaz Sharif claiming that Pakistan was complicit in the Mumbai attacks. In what is being dubbed as ‘Dawn Leaks – 2’, Nawaz Sharif crossed whatever (undefined) threshold our nation has for tolerating nonsense. Not just any nonsense, but one that endorses India’s ludicrous narrative against Pakistan, while undermining our national security as well as ideology integrity.
In the aftermath, our politics and media have gone into a frenzy. While a majority of people (across all political divides) have had the sense to denounce Nawaz, there are still those attempting to defend the indefensible. In the midst of this confusion, the PML(N) leadership seems rudderless. The Prime Minister, during the National Security Council meeting, condemned Nawaz’s statement. Only to hold a press-conference later, followed by a speech on the floor of the Assembly, aimed at mounting a justification for his Quaid. Shehbaz Sharif, the de jure leader of PML(N), started off dismissing the entire episode as something “Nawaz Sharif can never do”. And later backtracked by saying that whoever (read: Maryam Nawaz) advised Nawaz to give this statement/interview, is his biggest enemy. Chaudhary Nisar was clear, from the very outset, in condemning Nawaz. Whereas the likes of Rana Sanaullah tried doing what they do best – disingenuously point towards other parties and institutions, in the hope that it distracts people from the embarrassment that is the Quaid of PML(N).
Most pertinently, however, Nawaz Sharif has endorsed his own statement, dismissing all doubts about there being misreporting or ‘out of context’ presentation. In fact, he has repeatedly asserted that he stands by his (preposterous) statement, and has asked “what is wrong with it?”.
Well, let us try and answer this question for the disqualified Prime Minister. Let us, in simple words (so he can understand), try and briefly explain to Nawaz Sharif what is “wrong” with his attempts to undermine the State of Pakistan, black-mail its institutions, and strengthen its enemies… all with the singular aim of protecting ill-gotten personal wealth.
For this purpose, let us start with the precise quote in Dawn (which Nawaz Sharif stands by). Talking to Cyril Almeida (of the famed Dawn Leaks – 1), Nawaz Sharif said, “Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?”
Let us parse through this statement, in order to unbundle its contents. Specifically, in this statement, Nawaz claims: 1) “militant organizations are active” in Pakistan; 2) Pakistan “allow(s) them to cross the border and kill” other people; 3) “150 people [killed] in Mumbai” was an example of one such ‘permission’; and 4) Pakistan is at fault for not having “completed the trial” of Mumbai attackers.
As such, in one statement, Nawaz Sharif called Pakistan a terrorist State, which “allows” terrorism to be exported across our borders for killing of innocent people (as in Mumbai, 2008), and then chooses not to prosecute the culprits through its judicial system. In simpler words, Nawaz Sharif has alleged that the armed forces of Pakistan sponsor cross-border terrorism, and our judiciary (purposefully) never convicts the suspects. And, by extension, he conveys that his ouster from premiership was somehow a result of confronting the army and the judiciary on such issues (and not because of the billions stashed away in off-shore wealth).
Bravo! What nerve by a man who has been part of the ‘establishment’ more than any other individual in our national history! What (terrible) claim by a man born as an afterthought of the vilest military dictator of our land. What (ridiculous) sense by an individual who (per Supreme Court record) took money from the ‘establishment’ to oust the democratic government of Benazir Bhutto. What audacity by an individual who has been disqualified by the highest court in our land, and is on trial for corruption worth billions of Rupees.
The fact that this preposterous statement made by Nawaz Sharif is farcical (and mala fide) on the face of it, cannot be doubted or justified. However, perhaps there could be some explanation for such a statement, if the interviewer had asked Nawaz a direct question about Mumbai attacks, or about national security.
As it turns out, there was no occasion or prompt for such a statement. A careful reading of the interview, as reported, reveals that Nawaz was never asked a question about Mumbai attacks, its ongoing trial, or about foreign policy in general. Except that when “asked what he believes is the reason for his ouster from public office, [Nawaz Sharif] did not reply directly but steered the conversation towards foreign policy and national security”. And then proceeded to comments on Mumbai attacks. In other words, Nawaz had planned to make a statement that (purposefully) undermines Pakistan’s foreign policy as well as national security. And this, for all intents and purposes, is why there has been so much hue and cry about Nawaz Sharif being a “ghaddar”.
Nawaz Sharif’s seditious statement about “should we allow them to…” has raised a number of other (and far more important) questions about the disqualified Prime Minister himself. Should we ‘allow’ a disqualified individual (on trial for corruption) to undermine out national and regional interests? Should we allow this individual to dictate our foreign policy challenges? Should we allow his misplaced sense of entitlement to dictate our political and security agenda? Should we, as a nation, allow one person to undermine a national ‘war against terror’, which has claimed thousands of lives? Should we allow this man – whose sons refuse to so much as appear before our courts – to desecrate the memory of martyrs? Should we allow him to operate freely as an agent of fifth generation warfare? Should we allow him to gamble with the ideology and integrity of Pakistan, just to be able to save his corrupt financial empire? Should we allow him to lord over our political landscape (as the ‘Quaid’ of the ruling party) while advocating the narrative of Pakistan’s enemies (e.g. RAW and NDS)? Should allow him to hold the entire nation hostage to his destructive path of wealth-preservation? Should we allow him to black-mail (yes, black-mail!) our State with threats about (made up) secrets that he might reveal?
Or should we, instead, demonstrate – once and for all – that no matter how wealthy or powerful an individual gets, no matter how many votes he can buy or (compromised) politicians he commands, we (as a nation) will not allow him to trample upon our collective fate. That this country, and its polity, has no space for people who swear fidelity to their personal ambition above national interest. That our nation can neither be bought, nor browbeaten, through tactics of a new proxy war, in which compromised politicians are the enemy’s foot-soldiers.
This is not a time for politics. This is a time for calling the enemy by (his) name. And anyone who shies away from this national responsibility, will eventually be made to answer before the court of a bereaving nation.
The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has an LL.M. in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @SaadRasooll