By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
It seems we shall continue to have interesting times until general elections are over later this year. In my last column I had talked about Pakistan being a country with never a dull moment. When AAZ used to tell me ‘mark my words, I will turn the tables over’ I had no reason to doubt since he had time and again proved his skills though others did and made fun of him.
Just on the eve of elections for the Senate Chairman and Deputy Chairman I had a chat with him and he did not say much but reminded me of his forecast. With atmosphere pregnant with expectations of unexpected as Charles Dickens would like to describe the situation, except Maryam Nawaz challenging her opponents: ‘Stop us, if you can’, every other party was busy until the last minute to come up with an unassailable combination. And they did come up with a winning combination.
While the PPP, PTI and Chief Minister Balochistan Quddus Bizenjo along with other supporters, sorted out candidates for the two high offices, PML-N decided to put up veteran of the party from the days of General Ziaul Haq to contest against Senator Sadiq Sanjrani. Raja Sahib more popular as Zia’s opening batsman has been a veteran as a loser. His colleagues says he never won a direct contest so for them his defeat was a foregone conclusion. As expected the day ended with two historic firsts for both the Chairman and his deputy PPPP’s Saleem Mandviwalla.
All kudos to PPPP President Asif Ali Zardari. He lived up to his reputation as a master player – and his prediction months ahead that he would not let PML-N have its man elected as Chairman Senate, his challenge was floundered by MNS, Maryam and PML-N leadership – finally much to their humiliation. It is said that even before the first vote was cast, Sanjrani appeared over confident of his victory. Obviously. He was supported by almost all the major parties of the country, which had taken his tally to 57 besides of course those three PML-N senators who genuinely believe in the narrative that Balochistan is a deprived province which should be given top-level representation in the Senate especially in the backdrop of Senate chairman never been elected from the province. “It was too powerful an argument to be ignored.” Asif Zardari being a Baloch himself, had always tried to remove the Baloch grievances and he was right to grasp the opportunity that the Senate elections offered.
PMLN’s humiliation and disappointment was witnessed when Prime Minister’s son in public gallery could not bear joyous burst of PTI and PPPP supporters. The brawl in the gallery between Prime Minister’s son and PTI worker over his joyous expression on victory and those who could measure tension and nervousness in the PML-N camp, had forecast that the ruling party had lost the number game much before the vote count was finished.
PML-N leaders known for speaking at the top of their voice were seen whispering in the ears of their colleagues in the Senate out of desperation. Senator Asif Kirmani who seemed to be spearheading the electoral campaign, kept going from one chair to another, whispering in the ears of various party leaders during the polling, seeking their vote and promising them instant reward soon after. Some PML-N members even accused that party’s ally – JUI(F)’s Senators too perhaps voted for Sadiq Sanjrani and Mandviwalla, giving those votes out of their animosity to Senator Hasil Bizenjo. The popular slogan Aik Zardari Saab Par Bhari proved to be too wieldy for PML-N social media tweeters. The two historic victories in one go definitely provided an occasion for both the candidates and their supporters to celebrate including cheers in favour of Asif Zardari, who is now acknowledged beyond any doubt as the mastermind of these victories.
Notwithstanding who got defeated the fact is that election of Sadiq Sanjrani will give some hope to the people of Balochistan for the alleviation of their sufferings during the last seven decades. Not that, the office of the Chairman gives extra-ordinary executive powers to the office holder. It is even said that it is more less a titular office. However, one would not agree with this view. Former Chairman Raza Rabbani proved by his ability what Senate can do in the process of effective legislation. PPPP senators led by RR successfully steered the 18th Amendment and had the previous Prime Minister MNS and his party not protected Zia introduced Article 62 & 63 in the Constitution regarding the abstract notion of ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Amin’, he could have escaped the disqualification for mega corruption. As you sow so shall you reap is the lesson.
It would have been different ball game if PML-N was not given the opportunity to nominate a new PM after Mian Sahib’s disqualification. It provided him a golden chance to enjoy the perks of absolute power. He nominated his own successor and his entire cabinet. His Principle Secretary Fawad Hasan Fawad remained in office, his bother Shahbaz Sharif, the war lord of the largest provinces with abundance resources. He is out of power but has prime ministerial protocol despite the albatross of conviction round his neck. His open-ended attacks on the judiciary and indirectly generals, made more venomous by his daughter and party hangers on like Talal Choudhry, Nihal Hashmi and others – created the lethal perception that Nawaz is not gone, he is not going and he will come back-almost an ideal recipe to give new lease of life to him and his party.
The Senate upset seems to have sounded the political death knell for the house of Sharifs. One would not require services of soothsayers or astrologers to predict what is around the corner when elections will be held. Despite the fact that PML-N still has total control over the man power and resources of the biggest province yet elections unleash such dynamics of change that are not easily comprehend.
Unforeseen developments witnessed before and during the Senate elections make one wonder if similar surprises could possibly characterise the outcome of general elections scheduled for July especially when President Asif Ali Zardari would be in full position to blast those responsible for his over 12 years incarceration, his disqualification along with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto ordered by MNS to Accountability Court headed by Justice Malik Qayum to convict the couple post haste in April 1999. I am sure Zardari would not have forgotten attempt to kill him in jail by now Senator Rana Maqbool as IG police from Punjab to fix him up.
In view of the outcome of the Senate elections political pundits who were only few days back were of the view that Nawaz and his PMLN cannot be defeated in Punjab now are orchestrating about the inevitability of a hung parliament with PMLN outmaneavoured by Zardari once again. Forecasts are rife of a possible coalition between PPPP, PTI and other small parties. British philosopher Lord Acton was absolutely right when he said “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Indeed, this is the message that a young student tweeted me on Senate’s surprise. “It is a great day for the State of Pakistan, as Nawaz’s candidate loses the Senate Chairmanship and the country begins to free itself from the monarchy of the Sharif family – a family that is trying to destroy the Institutions of Pakistan, to protect their personal wealth and power.” Indeed, noting but re-visitation of Divine Justice!
(The writer is former High Commissioner of Pakistan and veteran journalist.)