By Babar Ayaz
When rumours are proven right, they are hard news. Throughout 2017 particularly after the Dawn leaks there were rumours that the establishment would not let the PML-N have a majority in the Senate. In the March 3, 2018 Senate elections we saw that the establishment’s political engineering was successful and PML-N was unable to establish its majority in the Upper House.
To begin with they struck the weakest link of PML-N by bringing in a revolt against its Chief Minister in Balochistan who was removed through a vote of no confidence. Balochistan has remained for the last many many years under the de-facto control of the establishment. The politicians in that wretched province can only rule with their blessings. This position has been acquired by them by manipulating and dividing the leading Baloch tribes into various factions. All this is done in the name of keeping the solidarity and integrity of the country because since 1948 when the province was annexed there have been many movements for greater autonomy and also some going to the extent of asking for independence. The armed struggle for independence in the province has weakened and the Baloch nationalist leadership which has struggled for a greater autonomy has been able to deliver more to the people of the province than the starry-eyed independence revolutionaries.
The Balochistan assembly member’s revolt against the PML-N Chief Minister is reported to be the result of horse-trading. It reminded me of the maverick banker Younas Habib who provided the money to the establishment for distribution among the leaders of IJI so that they could defeat Benazir Bhutto’s Peoples Party. Interestingly this time the role of Younas Habib was unfortunately allegedly played by BB’s ‘erstwhile’ husband Asif Ali Zardari.
It seems that Mr. Zardari wants to prove to the establishment that he can serve them more obediently than Mr. Nawaz Sharif.His track record also shows that: he backed out from the foreign policy initiatives he had taken in his early days of presidency once he was pushed back by the custodians of foreign and national security policy – he backed out from developing a personal rapport with Afghan President Karzai – he stepped back from the position taken by his ambassador in the US in getting supremacy over the military establishment in the Kerry Lugar bill – he also rescinded from the initial reaction given by him on the raid on Osama bin Laden by the US, initially he had said that Pakistan helped the US in getting OBL, but once the establishment conceded that it was the intelligence and security failure he also did not pursue any investigation for these failures.
Would he be able to save the skin of his cronies and corrupt officials by serving the powers-that-be (PTB)? Many critics of Mr. Zardari believe that once NS would be removed from the political scene by sentencing him and his daughter in the NAB cases, Mr. Zardari’s lot too would not be spared. But those who think that he is a clever street-smart politician predict that AZ may form the next coalition government after the 2018 highly tampered general elections. The trajectory of legal imbroglio in which Nawaz Sharif has been trapped shows that most probably he would be convicted along with Maryam Nawaz in the NAB reference cases, come what may. Now it is up to the Accountability Courts to decide whether it is for one year or for ten years as the NAB laws provide. The decision might come after the interim government is set up so that the present Prime Minister can not recommend clemency to the President.
Perhaps the political engineers believe that once NS would be imprisoned it would be easier to waylay his willing candidates. But so far these attempts have not proved to be of much success.
Many court jesters who appear on television criticise NS for being the product of General Zia and hence challenge his anti-establishment credentials. These analysts do not take into account that no political party or personality is static. Circumstances and personal experiences organically change them. They forget that Nawaz Sharif was removed from power and humiliated four times on the behest of the establishment. So when he claims that he has become ideological and says that he will contest the next elections on the slogan of ‘give respect to the vote of the people’ he is making an important statement that in this country he will fight for the supremacy of the elected government over the establishment. This slogan alone may not be attractive for the voters who are more concerned about their economic well being. For this task to convince the people that his government has brought development, Shehbaz Sharif is expected to take the lead.
Though Pakistan’s yawning current account gap may remain a challenge for whosoever will make the next government, for the time being Nawaz Sharif’s government has much to show, by flaunting around the 6% growth rate in GDP and bridging the gap between the demand and supply of the power sector. This might work to catch the votes for PML-N, whether NS would be in jail or not.
(The writer is the author of What’s wrong with Pakistan and can be reached at email@example.com)