Palki Main Hoke Sawar Chali Re: Nawaz Sharif joins Qazi Hussain Ahmed's Palki of Long March.
IJI revived? ISI involved?
paalki mein ho ke savaar chali re
main to apane saajan ke dwaar chali re
koi rok sake to ...
Sharif back in his mettle
And it’s not just for old times’ sake. He’s back in the rightist fold because that’s where his and Qazi’s inner convictions cross path. With this, the moral high ground that Sharif had earned with the electorate also comes crashing down. Only last year, his party was tipped for the first time as having graduated to a mainstream secular platform — away from the mullah and the military.
In its shortlived new incarnation, the PML-N got so much of the popular vote that it defied analysis. That could be because Sharif’s rhetoric and what he said he wanted out of politics was seemingly all so secular and closer to the people’s heart: ‘I’m in it for restoring to the people their rights, not for power.’ Unembellished by any ideological references, the message struck right home.
The tragedy is that even in its apparent wrongdoing, the PPP has been able to expose the true face of the old (read renewed) Sharif; someone who carried the stigma of having been hand-in-glove with rightist elements if that could ensure him his grip on power.
Sharif’s drift back to his natural allies of yore at a time when his growing admirers saw him as a changed, reformed politician, who had learnt the hard way, will do him little good. Henceforth his best hope will be that the Pakistan People’s Party continue to muck things up for him to re-emerge as an alternative in spite of his unchanged self.
The paradox in Sharif is that while he can’t help being himself, he aspires to go beyond himself — and fails. And then he wonders why very few people in the so-called right quarters have such little sympathy for him.
What he fails to understand is that the populist mantle he donned in the aftermath of Zardari’s backtracking on his undertakings could only remain popular if he stuck to his ground — the PML-N’s newfound identity that did not depend on support from the military or the mullah.
That same ground will now be seen by the voters as being sullied as Sharif reverts to rightist elements. Could liaisons with the military be far behind? This by no means is good news for the PPP-led coalition though. Already the government is reportedly planning to block the lawyers’ long march on Islamabad, due to start on March 12 from Lahore and culminate in a sit-in outside parliament.
Given the Jamaat’s and the PML-N’s participation in the rally, it is only a matter of time when the lexicon of the entire movement assumes an ideological, Islamist colour. There will soon be talk of the pious and the impious being pitched against one another, of good versus evil, of guardians of faith and the country pitted against godless traitors. No wonder western diplomats have remained wary of Sharif despite his predicament under the Musharraf regime, and despite repeated overtures made to woo them to Sharif’s cause.
Clearly, the West’s ‘misgivings’ of what they saw Sharif standing for will now be reinforced. It may be popular being anti-West in Pakistan but while doing so if a religious lexicon is invoked, it places one squarely in the wrong company. And that wrong company is that of the Islamists.
Even the most mainstream of religious politicians like Fazlur Rahman and Qazi Hussain Ahmed have shied away from condemning the Taliban movement in Swat, Waziristan and elsewhere, because deep down they have sympathy for these elements, which to many western diplomats in Islamabad translates into their having a soft corner for Al Qaeda.
Come to think of it, never have any of Pakistan’s religious politicians unequivocally condemned Al Qaeda. And guess what? Neither has Sharif. So this is the wrong company the Sharifs will now keep in their struggle against the PPP-led coalition and, admittedly, Zardari’s wrong way of governance.
God help Pakistan.