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Number 16

Updated Nov 27, 2016 05:52pm


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THE end is harder than the beginning. He’s gone, but it was a close call — closer than it may have seemed.

It was a long 10 months.

Back in Jan, we were told he would go. On time, back to the norm, no funny business. It looked like a done deal.

But Nawaz isn’t Zardari — he looks like he could win again. The five-year arc may not apply to him.

But then the N-League started to mutter and mumble. It sounded conspiratorial, the kind of stuff pols excel at.

He doesn’t want to go, they said. He hasn’t come out and said it yet, but it’s obvious what he wants. Us to give it and give it in a way that it looks like we begged and he grudgingly accepted.

Confusing matters was that some in the N-League did want to give it, to keep him on beyond his three years.

The usual suspects with the usual reasons: to ingratiate themselves or to try and pull a fast one — if he agreed to stay on beyond three years, the N-League would have to worry less about him trying the ultimate.

For months, it was hard to separate the noise.

But then the final stretch came and the wobble grew. He is so popular; the country is demanding his service and that’s not easy to ignore, allies claimed.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if previous decisions were revisited and fresh ones made in light of the new circumstances, others suggested.

Think of the country, all said.

It got to the point that real anxiety was felt. What if it went beyond discreet inquiries and oblique messengers?

What if he just came out and demanded it?

As the tension rose, so did the resolve: no extension would be offered. In this brave new world, everyone goes when his time is up. The rules would not be bent.

It helped that Nawaz had played it straight the last time round. In 2013, he waited until the last moment and then picked the chap who had made no attempt to lobby and evinced no ambition.

So this time Nawaz could pretend he was just following his own template: wait until the last minute to announce the next chap.

But an adjustment to the template had to be made. This time he let it be known that there will be a next guy, on time, on schedule and as planned.

An extension would not be offered.

The end may be harder than the beginning, but an end it was going to be. Now it’s on to the next guy to move and to figure out what lies ahead.

Easiest is to know that we will be here again in three years. It’s not the man, it’s the office — it does something to you.

What’s an easy no when theoretical becomes a squeamish maybe when the moment arrives. Faced with an actual exit, the temptation to hang on will always manifest itself.

But that’s for the end. We’ve got three years to get through first. And in at least one respect, they may have to be different.

From Kayani to Raheel, we’ve seen the new scheme: rule without ruling. It means keep the civilians pinned backed generally and pinioned to the mat occasionally.

It’s worked well and the list of contrivances and convulsions is long and notorious.

The template has been to hit the new guy early, then get him again around the midpoint and then let him worry about elections by years four and five.

It amounts to: quickly sweep away early political capital and the electoral glow of a win at the polls; remind the civilians who’s boss around the time they may start to think beyond just survival; and let the normal electoral distractions do their work towards the end.

But Nawaz isn’t Zardari — he looks like he could win again. The five-year arc may not apply to him.

So far and on schedule, Nawaz has had a rough year three. Battered over Panama, battered over Modi and a rough transition to the next chief — orchestrated or not, it’s come together nicely according to the template.

But even now, Nawaz looks like he’ll survive and go on to be the favourite for re-election and a historic fourth term.

Then there’s the business of the other side catching on — the civilians figuring out what the boys are willing to do and learning that delay and non-reaction can see them through.

So the next chief will have to tweak the template and it sure as heck will be interesting to see how he goes about it.

The options are several. The episodes could become more intense. The abortive dharna could become the real deal — brinkmanship taken to the next level.

Memogate and the like could be escalated into yet more significant accusations of national security violations and harm to the national interest.

More significant political scalps could be demanded. And — the nuclear option: getting back into the game of massaging election results.

Nawaz, after all, remains uniquely vulnerable: he can win again all right, but he’ll have to sweep central and north Punjab — lands that are stalked by enemies aplenty.

All that we can know is that it won’t be pretty and it can’t nearly be predicted.

But that’s for the future. For now, welcome to No 16.

The writer is a member of staff.

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2016


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (23) Closed

Red Dawn Nov 27, 2016 05:35am

Good Analysis. Seems like N.S is poised to win again because PPP hasnt effectively reorganized itself and PTI hasn't offered any real policy alternatives and relied only on empty rhetoric and slogans. Actually him winning again would be a great blessing for Pakistan because it would take the parties out of the mode of trying to ride incumbency factor instead of offering real performance.

Alba Nov 27, 2016 05:35am

Of course Nawaz Sharif could win again. He probably will. People vote with their wallets. Not so sure the PTI is organized enough to win. If the opposition wants to win they need to do some horse trading among themselves. Iran Khan will need to give something to get something.

Harmony-1© Nov 27, 2016 05:37am

How can a corrupt leader be favourite for re-election?

pakistani Nov 27, 2016 10:04am

@Harmony-1© corruption is not very important issue in Pakistan politics, we the people of Pakistan do not give it much importance.

Ashfaq Nov 27, 2016 10:44am

Truly depicting a nation as we are, knowing all Ins and outs of our politicians , corrupt elite class and previliged untouchables, no doubt NS is likely to win next elections too, reasons are enormous including Zardari's past and then gestures, IK's u turns, provincial manoplies and like mindedness of ruling establishment. But above all theses is our numbness and insensitivity of our masses against our actual rights and our selfishness to capture trivial interests rather than fighting for national interests

Overseascitizen Nov 27, 2016 11:28am

@Harmony-1© which leader is not corrupted????

Zahid Nov 27, 2016 11:44am

@Overseascitizen First of all, all leaders are not corrupted (as your assumption suggest). Secondly, even if we assume them corrupted, still it does not mean that it is not a problem. Because two wrong don't make a right. Thirdly, If it is widely perceived that some specific leader is corrupted, he should not be allowed to hold office.

Tehseenullah Nov 27, 2016 12:10pm

It is very unfortunate.

Shalone Nov 27, 2016 12:19pm

I look forward to reading Cyril. I personally do not like Nawaz Sharif but as a democrat, if people vote for him, I accept him as a leader without ifs and buts.

Manzoor Ahmad Nov 27, 2016 12:21pm

I am great admirer of outgoing Gen Sharif due to his services to our country.He was always on the move amongst his troops.He boosted morale of his officers and jawans.Our army is now fully prepared to crush internal and external enemies.May God shower His blessings on him and his family.

Parvez Nov 27, 2016 01:27pm

Good and balanced.

Ahmed Nov 27, 2016 02:16pm

Why your paragraphs are just two sentences. Your writing style is rather unique, free and mirred in confusion.

Qasim Nov 27, 2016 02:17pm

Biased views expressed in this article.

Karachi Nov 27, 2016 02:56pm

@Qasim Doing his best to survive his profession :-)

wellwisher Nov 27, 2016 06:40pm

@Manzoor Ahmad --why should internal and external enemy exists at all.Are they needed to justify some institutional existence

Jamil Nov 27, 2016 06:45pm

To me the style of the author is naive and difficult to follow in the first read.May be the problem is with me.He should cater for the mediocres as well.Thanks Dawn.

Jamil Soomro, NEW YORK CITY Nov 27, 2016 08:11pm

@Ahmed You are so right.

malick Nov 27, 2016 08:46pm

PTI is well organised and will breaks it best policies for country when time come. PPP and PMLN is the corrupt lot and MUK MUKA. Nation is tired of MUK/Muka. PTI is fully loaded by guns, rockets, misiles and nuck power to make enemy understand. IK is now completely different and most honest, effective politician than 2013. Let us fight to finish corruption and MUK?MUKA. All other issues like poverty and terrorism will die.

Syed Hafeez Imran Nov 27, 2016 09:53pm

@Overseascitizen so you think that if X and y do it then it is no more abhorrent. wrong and acceptable. I take my hats off to your distorted logic an corrupted sense of values and ---Pakistan Zindabaad

Ali S Nov 28, 2016 12:24am

@pakistani Do you really think the alternative to Nawaz is any better? There are lessons in Trump's election for all of us.

Harmony-1© Nov 28, 2016 12:32am

@Jamil - Nicely put...witty :)

Adnan Anwar Nov 28, 2016 08:17am

@Harmony-1© Pakistani people want to enslaved by the dynasties that loot them , sadly the enslaved do vote for Sharif and Bhutto dynasties. These dynasties want the enslaved to remain illiterate.

Amer Nov 28, 2016 08:39am

Raheel Sharif all the way !