This cannot be happening, I told myself as the news of PML N’s latest nomination for President broke on television screens across Pakistan. Hours later, coming to terms with what had happened, realization began to take over that what I had said in some of my previous pieces was true. Shock, incredulity and panic at back to back setbacks had so effected the Sharifs and what was left of their political ‘empire’ that they had lost all reason and in doing so disrupted their decision making loop in a manner that defied wisdom and even Pakistan’s national interest.
As a Pakistani, who fervently believes in celebrating our Independence, no matter what the conditions, I was perfectly happy with the PPP nominee for the Presidential race. The gentleman was a man of eminence and character, who had in the past displayed the courage to be forthright to the extent of annoying elements within his Party. From political point of view PPP had displayed maturity in not backtracking on their choice, thereby avoiding the possibility of playing second fiddle to PML N or perhaps seen through the machinations of the ‘far right’. Nawaz Sharif’s party (the Apex Court or the Election Commission should now take suo moto notice that the work ‘N’ in the name indirectly violates a judicial judgment) on the other hand appears to be becoming more and more erratic (almost paranoid) in their actions. In the opinion of many political gurus this is the outcome of many things. On the top of the list are the back to back shocks, the Party has been receiving i.e. the trial and conviction of Nawaz Sharif and his daughter; Shahbaz Sharif’s expected accountability and (in the worst case scenario) removal from the political chess board; defections; conviction of some key members of the Party and the apparent inability of the younger Sharif in mitigating pressures on PML N coupled with his failure to resonate with PPP.
Let me however ‘throw a spanner in the works’ and endeavor to create some more scenarios as food for thought. What if Adiala Jail’s VIP inmate and his cronies have evolved a game plan that aims at discrediting the younger Sharif’s ability to lead the Party effectively? What if as part of this plan they want to keep him on the ‘back foot’ and deny him the space to overshadow his brother’s image? What if Shahbaz Sharif is actually being held hostage by his jailed brother’s inner ‘cordon’ and helpless to do anything that establishes him as politically great? Why should Mr. Pervez Rasheed sabotage the Joint Opposition’s Presidential bid and issue a statement asking Mr. Aitezaz Ahsan to visit Adiala Jail and personally apologize to the convicted former PM, for his anti-Nawaz remarks on the Panama disclosures, with full knowledge that PPP would not accept the demand? And why should PML N do the unthinkable – nominate a person for President - known for his doubtful political and patriotic notions.
In an alternate scenario, what if PPP withdraws from the Presidential race at the last moment catching the PTI and its allies off guard and happy at the disintegration of the Joint Opposition, when in actual fact all the dissent was simply part of an elaborate game plan to put their man, no matter how controversial in the Presidency?
I have observed PTI from up close and am not comfortable from I have seen. The Party character is laid back and naïve. There is too much passion and diversity in its rank and file. This is a combination that requires a leader, who understands that in passion and diversity there is strength and who has the ability to harness it. Imran Khan fortunately has the charisma and grit to do this, provided he has unflinching support from his team. I see much of this support, only in words and not deeds. While Khan Sahib is setting personal examples on austerity and honesty, these are not being emulated by his provincial teams. The PTI Chairman’s greatest enemy will not be his political opponents, but his own people, an unhappy bureaucracy, police and a horde of public servants, who see their perks, nuisance value and overhead income disappear. I am gripped with the fear that in Khan Sahib’s case, a few good men may not prove good enough to overpower the evil that has plagued this land of ours for more than seven decades.
The writer is a freelance columnist.