Is Nawaz Sharif’s campaign producing dividends?
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2017-08-13 05:30:15

Is Nawaz Sharif’s campaign producing dividends?

As ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif successfully leads his caravan to Lahore on the GT Road, attracting large crowds in major towns en route, he had three options to choose to protest his disqualification by the Supreme Court on a weak ground.


In Rawalpindi, a large number of people attended his Committee Chowk rally; in Jhelum the turnout tremendously improved; and in Gujrat the audience further swelled, meaning his movement gained momentum as the journey progressed.

One option before the deposed premier after his ineligibility was to sit silently, raise no
protesting voice, take a flight to Lahore to chill out and relax in his Raiwind residence in the rest of his disqualified life; and wait for the issuance of arrest warrants in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) reference cases like a helpless, unpopular politician.

Such recourse would have certainly nailed his politics and demoralized his supporters and workers, leaving them in the lurch. However, it is pointless to expect from a political figure of his stature to remain silent over his disqualification. The no-protest line was touted by some ‘saner’ elements of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Had he paid heed to their counsel, he would have become a monumental political disaster.

When Mohammad Khan Junejo had been dismissed without any rhyme or reason by Gen Ziaul Haq on May 29, 1988, using the hammer of despicable Article 58(2)(b), he had just addressed one presser and that too relatively belatedly, dubbing his sacking as unconstitutional. After that, he quietly departed for his hometown, Sindhri. His subsequent low-key activities left him nowhere in the political field and he soon became history. On the contrary, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif always vociferously agitated their unconstitutional ousters by dictators and others and took out rallies and processions to agitate the actions. For their reason, even after their unceremonious exits, they remained relevant in politics for decades and still continue to be so simply because they did not take this disgrace lightly and silent.

Those advising Nawaz Sharif to follow in Junejo’s footsteps hardly possessed enviable political vision or wisdom. Did they nurse the fear of the unknown too much or have some other reasons for recommending silence? Whatever the basis, the ousted premier did not buy their take. All of his leading detractors also wanted him to quieten down and be consigned to history ignominiously. However, their frustration and despondency greatly went up when he opted for his show of power through his travel on the GT Road.

The second option before the deposed prime minister was to keep his “homecoming” in a low profile by going to Lahore via Pakistan Motorway. This would not have provided him too many places in the way to address his supporters. The original plan was to travel by the motorway and hold one public meeting en route and another in Lahore. Such a hurried arrival in Lahore would have been a non-event and would not have helped him mobilize the PML-N like he has done now. It would also have denied his workers to listen from him his side of the story on his disqualification.

In fact, Nawaz Sharif had initially planned to use the motorway but he, in consultations with his party, gave a second thought to this programme. It was thought that the journey by motorway would not be much productive and fruitful politically for the PML-N and the message he wants to directly convey to his workers would not reach them. Therefore, this plan was abandoned.

The third choice before the deposed premier was to reach Lahore in a cavalcade by the GT Road and stop at different places to explain what happened to him. He took along only a few PML-N leaders and left all others to do their jobs in the government or elsewhere. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and his entire cabinet team except three of its members are busy in their official duties. Thus, the PML-N politics is being effectively spearheaded by Nawaz Sharif while the government is being run by his lieutenants. This is the division of work having been consciously introduced.

As far as the former premier’s present campaign is concerned, it is producing dividends and his message has been well received by his supporters, who are convinced that he was not treated fairly and justly. Resultantly, they haven’t approved his ineligibility. By the time he will reach Lahore sometime on Saturday, he would have addressed at least four major rallies.

Regardless of what general people are saying about this GT Road travel, its success can be gauged from the harsh reaction of Nawaz Sharif’s diehard opponents, who started opposing it the moment it was unfolded. As the travel went ahead, their criticism became sharper and lethal. Like some PML-N leaders, they too had recommended that he should go to Lahore by the Motorway for the obvious reason that this route would not generate much activity for the PML-N and his “homecoming” would remain lackluster and dull.

Tariq Butt

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