Nine times Nawaz Sharif was too cute
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2018-03-13 13:10:55

Nine times Nawaz Sharif was too cute


When Nawaz Sharif demands to know why he was ousted for the third time from the prime minister’s office, one feels it would be impossible to surpass this level of innocence for anybody over the age of four.

One is obliged to revise one’s assessment when Sharif answers his own question: it was his failure to receive salary from his own son for which he was booted out. It’s not uncharacteristic either, for when it comes to public displays of innocence Sharif has long been in a one-way competition with himself, some instances of which I am listing here for the benefit of forgetful souls:

1. Qarz utaro mulk sanwaro. In 1997 Sharif had an epiphany: a brilliantly simple idea to retire the foreign debt by exhorting the masses to dig deep into their pockets. I still remember a university class-fellow (a regular patwari, although it would take two decades before the term would be coined) marveling at how nobody had thought of such a simple plan to get rid of the nation’s debt problem before. Sadly, in terms of foreign debt Pakistan was none the better for the whole exercise. What’s more, nobody seemed to know where all the funds had gone.

2. Tele-governance. That same year Sharif felt compelled to solve the nation’s other problems too – if only he could find any. He decided to ask his countrymen to bring him up to speed on the phone, and many did. The conversations were played on state TV. One of my colleagues (then a mere schoolboy) was able to get through from Gilgit. Unfortunately, ‘Please remain on the line; the prime minister will talk with you’, was the closest he got to talking to the great man, before suddenly getting disconnected. He wanted to tell the PM what a great job he was doing, something the latter no-doubt already had an inkling of. For mysterious reasons, the tele-governance didn’t last very long.

3. Run machine. While his lone first-class appearance resulted in a duck for Railways against PIA in 1973, in the 90s (after he became PM) Sharif’s batting exploits at Bagh-e-Jinnah started being reported amazingly frequently (he never bowled or fielded). It was without exception a deluge of fours and sixes (bowlers and fielders knew better than getting him out). In 2017 he fondly recalled those golden days and described how he could never resist hooking bouncers, and how he had scored a belligerent 36 not out in a friendly Commonwealth match at Harare in 1991 (again as PM) where the opposition had ‘bowlers’ of the quality of Clive Lloyd!

4. At par with Muhammad Rafi. There’s no documentary evidence to support Sharif’s claim (made in 2017) of being indistinguishable from Muhammad Rafi till only a few years ago, but at least one Indian citizen was enamored enough of his voice to ask him to sing over the telephone. On such occasions he is rumored to have sung Dilshad Begum songs in Muhammad Rafi’s voice. Equal to Rafi or not, only an extremely simple and trusting fellow would expose himself in such manner – on international calls, no-less.


5. The fifteenth amendment. Sharif has made something of a habit of ‘heavy’ mandates. One such mandate prompted him (in 1998) to try and become the ameer-ul-momineen (because why the hell not?). Had he succeeded, he would have got the power to amend the constitution by a simple majority, provided the amendment ‘helped the enforcement of Shariah’. The bill failed to pass but the attempt itself won him the simple-soul-of-the-year award hands down.
6. Don’t remember. And then there was the small matter of 140 million distributed among politicians as part of the establishment’s plan to prevent the PPP from winning the 1990 elections, which succeeded spectacularly when Sharif became PM for the first time. Unsurprisingly, Sharif, along with younger brother Shehbaz, featured prominently on the recipients’ list later revealed by none other than the DG ISI at the time. Sharif’s written statement submitted to FIA years later in his third stint as PM was innocence itself: I don’t remember receiving the amount – it was a long time ago, and one meets so many people in election seasons. But if any such thing happened, I am willing to return the amount with interest. How disarmingly charming!
7. Austerity drive. In the aftermath of the nuclear tests in 1998, Sharif, after promptly freezing foreign currency accounts of citizens, showed one and all that he was taking the brunt of the international sanctions by announcing that only one meal a day will be cooked in his home. It is said that when he refused to budge on his promise to the nation, his well-wishers, to keep his energy at the requisite prime-ministerial levels, were left with no option but to arrange for the second, third, and fourth meals to be sent to his home from outside.
8. Bhutto’s heir. From Sharif’s speeches after his third dismissal and those of his supporters’, an alien from outer space could be excused for believing that Sharif was the political heir to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto instead of being the biggest beneficiary of mentor and godfather Gen Zia’s coup in 1977 that had culminated in Bhutto’s hanging. Sharif is not an alien from outer space, but he seems to believe the same.

9. The Qatari letters. The Qatari letters (2017), which prompted the infamous ‘Trail established, case demolished’ tweet from daughter Maryam, were an attempt to satisfy the Supreme Court regarding the way the Sharif children had suddenly come in possession of assets worth millions of pounds. Granted that it wasn’t easy to get out of the hole after the ill-advised ‘Alhamdulillah’ interviews by son Husain, and a series of addresses to the nation and the parliament by Sharif himself (all contradicting one another), the Qatari letters represented the summit of naïve optimism.

Given that Nawaz Sharif has been able to preserve his innocence through such corrupt times and for so long, chances are that he is not going to lose it any time soon. That said, it will be unfair to end this little survey without paying tribute to the innocence and naivety of those Pakistanis – the laypeople and ‘analysts’ alike – who fall for Sharif’s innocence every time. Let’s take a moment, here and now, to give a round of applause to that rather large demographic.


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