By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
There were fears, there were apprehensions and one anticipated that there would be fireworks when deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would land in Islamabad. ‘No show was held, no pieces of Ghalib flew in the air.’ He came, he was received all together by 172 people that included 17 PMLN leaders rest were government functionaries and Airport Security Force personnel who escorted him to Punjab House where Governor Punjab, ministers and other darbaries were waiting to welcome him back. Later NAB officers would serve notice on him to appear in court on November 3rd.
Mian Sahib’s decision to return home, leaving behind a critically ailing wife, came as a surprise amidst stories that he would not appear on November 3 court hearing and that he was also deliberating to pass some time in exile believing “if winter comes, can spring be far behind”.
While he was here his famous and corruption-drowned Park Lane Apartments had become Mecca for PMLN hierarchy. They were all here for London Plan as Zahid Hussain, columnist in Dawn believes. In his deliberations with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif, it was decided that he should return to Pakistan as his avoidance of court hearings and long absence would make the task of forces out there to break PMLN easier.
Despite pep talks of firebrand Maryam Safdar, PMLN supporters are gradually sinking into deep depression. And powers that be with their Trojan horses inside the rank and file of PMLN are already working overtime to splinter the party that has no ideological bind such as PPP. Majority of those on its band wagon are self seekers and sunshine politicians.
However, that faction of PMLN that has love lost with Mian Sabin claim that both Shahbaz Sharif and Ch Nisar are firmly toeing establishment’s line and want minus one formula so that one takes over at the Centre and the other in Punjab. They say with some credence that though the impression by pro-Nawaz media is that the establishment wants enforcement of minus-one formula as a solution to the stalemate in the political situation and to let PMLN complete its tenure till next elections in 2018, actually minus-one formula is brainchild of Shahbaz and Nisar.
That’s why both don’t want Nawaz Sharif to continue his policy of confrontation with the Army and Judiciary. Shahbaz and Nisar feel that Nawaz’s appearance before NAB court — would dilute the situation. Opponents of the two in PMLN say it is a conspiracy of Shahbaz and Nisar to get rid of Nawaz out of their way and keep the way blocked for Maryam who is trying to establish herself as the Iron Lady of the party. Circles close to both Shahbaz and Nisar claim that their pressure has succeeded in sidelining Mrs Safdar. Maryam, however, continues her defiance taking on the court and the establishment. Sources say that behind the scene, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqqan Abbasi is trying to convince the powers that be to have yet another NRO like agreement as was reached between General Pervez Musharraf and martyred Benazir Bhutto that paved the way for 2008 elections, shedding of his uniform and amnesty to all political leader to participate in elections under an independent Election Commissioner. The Establishment is so far reluctant.
This NRO had enable Mian Sahib’s return to Pakistan. In his first attempt without NRO he was bundled out of Pakistan on his landing in Islamabad. You must have seen Nawaz on TV channels on his arrival and his court appearance. You would be in a better position to translate his body language in words. When he was leaving his Park Lane residence Wednesday evening his face showed profound concern.
Though he spoke defiantly, whatever he told the media was more of his much orchestrated lamentations by him and ‘hum nawa’ like rendering Allama Iqbal’s ‘Shikwa’. He wants you to believe that he is a victim of “sazish” of those powerful elements who don’t want to see Pakistan have “rivers of milk and honey and motorway to moon”. Well, that’s enough on return of Mian Sahib since you can make out yourself watching over hundred channels covering the events post arrival—whether real fireworks have been ignited or not. Sitting in London one does not know whether his supporters succeeded in collecting at least 100,000 people at Benazir Bhutto International Airport to welcome him and later at his hearing- to send a strong message to the powers that be—corruption or no corruption—Mian Sahib is a force to reckon with. Insiders claim that leadership is desperate in having a clash and dead bodies to put establishment on the defensive.
PMLN strategists are confident that the army cannot afford to open another front and that too with the people of Punjab. Quixotic one among them even are talking of people who might behave like Turkish nation that took to streets to beat black, blue and red its rebellious generals who tried an abortive coup to oust elected President Erdogan. Journalist friends in Islamabad say that Mian Sahib had planned much before boarding Islamabad flight that there would be show of strength on every day of his court appearances. If Mian Sahib and his supporters can manage to collect 100,000 people of even half every day of his case hearing— it would be like something of a revolution in Pakistan. Sources say he has been planning much more since he returned from Saudi Arabia. Chamak would be name of the game for mobilizing people, including violent rabble rousers. And 20 plus dead bodies would not only be a big plus point but would set the trend, viagarise his anorchous Muslim leaguers and followers and send a strong message to the establishment and the judiciary that ‘God Father is much too strong to take on’.
In this heated atmosphere in which all possibilities are possible, Chairman PPP—Bilawal Bhutto’s clarion call is timely. “Pakistan People’s Party stands for democracy, it will never ditch it, do and die to sustain it and do everything within its means to blunt the onslaught against democracy and Pakistan’s constitution. Indeed brave words of a young man who has risen to his present height and grows taller everyday as the leader of perhaps only federal party not because he played cricket, won cups and indulged in fun and frolic by night to seek a political career on a fictional performance despite being prodigal. From his childhood to this day Bilawal’s has been a life of an ongoing struggle. Most of his twenty years until his mother’s assassination in 2007 Bilawal had just seen sufferings, father languishing in jail of either Prime Nawaz Sharif or General Pervez Musharraf, his mother running from one court to another or living in exile.
Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif and his ‘daring’ daughter would have preferred to quit than to go through hell that Bilawal went through, ultimate being the cold-bloodied murder of his mother. MNS buckled in to GPM when he passed a few days in isolation in Attack Fort, signed the infamous ‘Maafee Nama’ brokered by his Saudi and American masters and took royal flight to Saudi Arabia with lock, stock and barrel except his buffalos, to the Saroor Palace. He left in the cold his confidantes like Ishaq Dar. Feeling betrayed Dar spilled the beans before the NAB in a 50-page confessional statement regarding the mega financial wheeling dealings he did for his PM and his family. IK does not know what is life like behind bars. People should dread the day when Islamist groups demand that adulterers be stoned to death even if they are in power. PPP is perhaps the only political party that has established its democratic and left of the centre credentials by offering sacrifices in blood of its top leaders besides thousands of its workers who relentlessly filled the jails, bore whips on their backs and suffered other totalitarian afflictions under military dictators — one worse than the previous. ANP followed in its footsteps and can be counted as a reliable partner in shielding current threats to democracy.
PML-N or XYZ — give any name to rank opportunists— it was this party — in one form or the other-that was always available to the establishment to subvert or scuttle democracy. It has been in power for over 30 years — only to master the art of thievery and digging its own grave by its miscalculations, misjudgments, machinations, intrigues, over confident of its links with the military establishment, playing one against the other and always willing to be available to the powers that be to upset applecart of democracy.
Charter of Democracy was the brainchild of martyred Benazir Bhutto to secure and salvage Pakistan from dictatorship and to set it on road to developing a formidable democracy that could withstand any subversive attack and extraconstitutional interventions like four previous ones by Bonapartist generals. PML-N leader Mian Nawaz Sharif was convinced by her and brought around to joining hands with her to consolidate democratic struggle to oust General Pervez Musharraf. Signing of Charter of democracy by the two major parties was a clear message of defiance to General Musharraf to get ready to pack up.
Indeed, the wily dictator was out maneuvered at his own game, every move that he made was check mated. He would not allow Bhutto to return home, she did in a blood bath engineered by GPM and his conspirators assigned by him to kill her. She escaped but later died in the second attempt executed by GPM’s hired marksmen on December 27, 2007. Despite having eliminated Bhutto — his only threat — GPM could not stay in power for long, elections had to be held, PPPP won them, formed the government, and showed the door to the dictator under threat of impeachment. However, no sooner things seem moving forward PML-N — initially a coalition partner in PPPP government and ruling Punjab — started stabbing it in the back and betraying its commitment to Charter of Democracy. Instead of supporting President Asif Zardari in sustaining democracy, its leaders openly opposed him and instead of the much touted IK’s ‘umpire’s finger’, Supreme Court Chief Justice Mr Iftikhar Choudhry appeared for Nawaz Sharif as a Jinn to carry out his orders to make governance impossible.
His Chief Minister in Punjab would threaten Zardari to drag him by his hair in the streets of Lahore. Bilawal Bhutto rightly underscored the fact that ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif took certain controversial steps during his tenure that have harmed the essence of democracy. However, Bilawal’s assurance is timely that: “We cannot support unconstitutional steps. PPP has always been pro-people. Our founding principle is that people are the source of all power,” he said, adding that the issue is that “people are either with democracy or with corruption; being the grandson of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and son of Benazir Bhutto, I will be siding with democracy.”
PML-N Interior Minister Rao Ahsan Iqbal is seeing nightmares in day time. He says ‘Hidden hands’ are pushing country towards democratic instability. The other day he was hallucinating about a mysterious Troika conjuring civil-military clash. Earlier when Nawaz Sharif was PM, he and his ministers had lost their cool. They and his firebrand daughter — never let go any opportunity to take a dig at the judiciary. Bilawal Bhutto has made it clear in a recent interview that his party will not tolerate any “technocratic or national government setup.” One would agree with him that PML-N is misleading the nation by inferring to Fauji intervention when Army Chief General Bajwa has categorically said martial law is not on the cards and that his institution stands steadfast by democracy, rule of law, constitutionalism and equal respect to all state institutions. Indeed, BBZ is right that PML-Nwallas are overplaying their hand. It seems they are deliberately trying to provoke the Praetorian institution to get them out and get in to make ‘Nawaz Shaheede-e-Jamhoriet’.
(The writer is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK, Advisor to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and a veteran journalist.)