The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.
The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

WHAT a world we live in today, where Mian Nawaz Sharif asks the people to vote him back into the system for the sake of ideology and where Imran Khan is hailed without too much thought as, not just a popular leader, but a genuine progressive leader. It is a time when Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari claims to be twice as rich as Asif Ali Zardari — or more shockingly, A.A.Z. cuts a poor figure against his own son who is just starting out on a political career and against the PPP ticket-aspirants in Punjab that he cannot find.

This is a terrible turnaround of events when you have Farooq Sattar pleading for muhajir votes, and the news about Shahbaz Sharif’s half-intention to contest a few Karachi seats causes so much positive excitement in the port city looking for its own modern transport to arrive.

This is all such a contrast to the clearly defined and settled Pakistani politics of the past, creating a craving not dissimilar to the one where the inhabitant of the new single version world longed for a return of the cold war era. And just imagine, it could have been much worse but for the very significant and greatly felt merciful presence of Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

Chaudhry Nisar puts you in your — favourite — place, as in he helps you recreate an era and locale that you so desperately want to hang on to. In the process, he revives trends and personalities and entities that may still have value in your estimate but which are generally supposed to have run their full course. The PPP for instance, which so many, so many times have wanted to reinvigorate, or failing that, reinvent or plainly recreate. The party is not yet dead — at least it is alive in the refrain of the good old Chaudhry, who sure knows how to sustain a dispute despite drastic change in circumstances.

Chaudhry Nisar does this impossible act where he regrets a certain part of the past, without bringing in his own loyalty and sincerity into question.

When he is not taken up by the internal strife in the PML-N that he himself is a worthy founder of, in Ch Nisar’s old, preserved world, it is the PPP that is quite often — almost always — at the receiving end. Imran Khan? Imran Khan who? He doesn’t quite figure in the equation. At least not as an opponent and much less as a rival out to pull the most trustworthy Pindi territory from under the veteran Leaguer’s feet. Ch Nisar clearly despises the ultimate insult of being inconsistent.

It is about left and right. In Chaudhry Nisar’s book it is all about a PML which is right of the centre, against a forever wayward but theoretically left of centre PPP. Simple equation that restores the old, serene looking political map of the country that is sought to be destroyed by all kinds of fresh entrants and new awakening — and by a sundry crowd not conversant with what Ch Nisar often calls outside dangers to the nation.

There is little room for any other contestants in this formula. Not even space for an Imran Khan. The PTI leader may have been courting the PML-N veteran, but Ch Nisar, the disgruntled Chaudhry of the stories that chronicle his epic battle with the parochial, family-family PML-N, would be the last person to trade his old world comfort with an exalted place in any other party that may want him for its own benefits.

He sticks to his old tag in this battle between the worthy and the unworthy, and does this impossible act where he regrets a certain part of the past, without bringing in his own loyalty and sincerity into question. His latest statement is where he reminds Mian Nawaz Sharif just how incapable Mian Sahib was of leading the party (and the country). Ch Nisar says that “we made him the party leader”. A source of great satisfaction to the old timers, it is not what he has said but the amount of time he has taken over it that should clear all suspicions about him being an original Pakistani politician. Not your usual, modern-day traveller prone to U-turns.

Nawaz Sharif was (not) a senior member out of the total 15 or 20 members Ch Nisar says the party had at that time. Nor was he “eligible to lead the party but we had no other choice.”

“I don’t owe him anything but he [Nawaz] is indebted to me,” he said.

As he says he has carried the burden for 34 years; this long endurance test that he has made himself go through also explains why as the interior minister Ch Nisar always came up with deliberate responses. He was not one for knee-jerk reactions to everything that was going around him. Some of his critics were hell-bent on pulling him down, alleging that he had a habit of disappearing after every incident that, per tradition, necessitated the interior minister’s reaction. Perhaps they had little inclination to realise that the man was carrying the burden of truth for three and a half decades and this made him cautious about how unhurriedly he responded. People don’t understand since they don’t quite recognise the value of the old style and habits that distinguish a towering veteran from the kid politicians claiming a share in daddy dear’s legacy. It is easy to grasp why the former interior minister is rightly angry at the new ways and systems led by the children while the elders are available to run the affairs.

And finally, he says: “There are many things which I wanted to share with people about the inner politics of PML-N and the role of Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz. But due to the critical health condition of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, I will not speak about it publicly.”

This last line about Begum Kulsoom really exposes him as an inhabitant of an altogether different universe that we have lost in transition. All powers to Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to keep that alternative alive and running.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2018

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