Former prime minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) Nawaz Sharif waves to supporters after his party victory in general election in Lahore on May 11, 2013.— File Photo by AFP
At the seat of government on May 12, 2013, Islamabad witnessed benevolent skies, power washed roads, bathed afresh flowers, grass, trees and everything Nature willed anew. When the clouds parted, we saw silver and gold rays spread their reach across the sweep from the Margalla Mountains to the plains of Punjab.
The air divine; the message clear: naya Pakistan is here.
Along with divine message came divine justice. The man mad for power at any cost who planned the NRO, now sits in sub-jail behind the sandbagged walls of his deluxe farmhouse while a few miles away hectic preparations to welcome a third time prime minister are on. The retired army chief Pervez Musharraf vowed, not once but several times before the nation that he would never allow Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif to return because they were corrupt.
He went back on his word and not only gave a free passage to both émigrés but said they could become prime ministers for more than two terms. So cocksure was the army chief that Bhutto and Sharif will never again taste power and he alone will rule for decades to come that he preached patience to Pervaiz Elahi. According to a reliable source, his restive Punjab chief minister was advised to bide his time and wait for 2013. “You’ll get your chance after Shaukat Aziz,” Musharraf counseled.
Instead, the year 2013 sees Nawaz Sharif sitting on the throne courtesy the same man — Musharraf!
The moving finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all your piety nor wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a line, Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.
It was not for Sharif but Imran Khan that many first-timers left their homes, stood in lines under a burning sun to vote for ‘naya Pakistan’. People, young and old have awakened from decades of slumber to stake their claim in the survival of their country. Every move, starting from Sharif’s choice of cabinet ministers to what’s cooking in his kitchen will now be closely watched by the 180 million Pakistanis.
Going by his past record, Sharif gup-shupped with his kitchen cabinet ministers, all with low IQs, focusing more on culinary interest than matters of state. The four elephants in the room confronting Sharif this time around require oodles of brainpower found only in knowledgeable, brilliant specialists in their respective fields. The four ‘Es’ or elephants being: economy, energy, employment and extremism. People appointed to wrestle the four elephants are the key to Sharif’s success. But he has been tested, tried and not come out with flying colours in the past. So, if he speaks of change, then he has to change himself first.
Being one of them, Sharif is the favourite son of wealthy industrialists who know he’ll keep a benevolent eye on their business interests. But to be fair to Sharif, he did try to reform the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) by ‘importing’ Moeen Khan, an honest upright banker from UK, to run the embattled institution. Moeen promptly clamped sales tax on shopkeepers resulting in the notorious traders strike at Liberty Market in Gulberg, Lahore.
“I was ordered to rescind the tax immediately by the prime minister,” Moeen, now deceased, told me in an interview years ago. The Intelligence Bureau was instructed to track his activities. A car with shady characters was seen parked before his apartment in Diplomatic Enclave to spy on him. Hounded, humiliated and ditched, Moeen returned to UK. He died soon.
History recently repeated itself. This time Ali Arshad Hakeem was made the whipping boy by a mafia of tax cheats who wanted the FBR chief gone. An overactive judiciary obliged. “In Pakistan's murky world of political appointments and patronage systems,” says London’s Sunday Telegraph, Hakeem was “simply too successful in forcing people to pay more taxes. In other words, he was too good at doing his job”.
Prior to May 11 polls, fights for the premiership were fought on airwaves, social media and newspaper advertisements. The last to join the list of wannabe prime ministers was the under-aged son of Zardari. His half page advertisement begged the question: Why have ‘old geezers ’ like Imran Khan 60, Nawaz Sharif 63, and Munawar Hassan 69, when you can have me, a durable 24-year-old?
“Imagine a scenario where a brother is the prime minister and the sister the president,” quipped a crystal gazer ,“Asif Ali Zardari, should his party win and form a coalition government can resign as president and enter parliament. PPP & its old partners, the MQM, the JUI-F and the ANP deem him prime ministerial material. Amending the constitution should be a breeze if it denies a president to hold public office soon after he/she resigns.”
Since our leaders like to share power only with their kith and sin, another wiseacre commented, “to make an all-in-the-family affair, the presidency can be passed on to sister Faryal Talpur, by now a master at politicking while they can keep warm the chairman senate seat for young Bilawal Bhutto Zardari whenever he comes of age.”
Anything is possible in Pakistan. Don’t forget Omar Khayyam’s above lines about the moving finger.
Parliamentary democracy and the 18th Amendment may make the president a figurehead but President Zardari like President Putin of Russia can alternate between prime minister and president. Despite a parliamentary/constitutional government, Putin is the crowned head in Russia.
Will Nawaz Sharif share the throne with the PPP president? This is hardly a million-dollar question. It’s been devalued to mere 10 cents given the number of turncoats Pakistan has produced over the years. Rahman Malik has been forgiven before for his treatment of the Sharifs, especially their late father, so he may again find ‘reprieve’ despite his desperate bid to accuse the Sharifs of money laundering.
Recently, Malik rode the electronic waving higgledy-piggledy, photocopied affidavits from unknown people who swore that they unwittingly facilitated Sharif family’s money laundering through banks in England. A guffaw maybe, a chuckle or two perhaps is all Malik managed. He was the wrong man at the wrong time to cry foul. The reams and reams of damning proof against the Sharifs is old hat. Gen (retd) Naseerullah Babar, Benazir’s second term interior minister had shown me these same documents after BB’s government fell. The press printed it all.
Slapdash attempts by Rehman Malik remind one of what Nawaz Sharif’s media men did to Imran Khan on the eve of 1996 elections. The state-owned PTV was bombarded with Imran’s sordid personal affairs.
Boom! The next day when vote counting finished, IK was a defeated man. In strode the vanquisher Mian Nawaz Sharif, flushed pink (no pun intended) with victory. He owed the ‘heavy mandate’ to one man — his information mastermind.
Who is sadiq, who is amin? I leave it to you to judge.
A leader who pays no income tax (billionaire Zardari) hopes to win in the name of his dead wife and father-in-law while Nawaz Sharif, who paid a measly Rs2.5 million in 2012, hopes to make Pakistan an Asian Tiger. How?