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Sunday June 16, 2024

In the interest of…

By Asha’ar Rehman
September 23, 2023

The last time Mian Nawaz Sharif set forth towards Pakistan, his younger brother started going in circles at a safe distance from Lahore’s Allama Iqbal Airport, where the popular leader was supposed to land.

This time, Shehbaz Sahab has gone even farther in anticipation of yet another historic homecoming but the alleged basic purpose behind the reluctant ride to the Lahore airport then and the dash to London now is the same: he wants to warn his elder brother and great Quaid from crossing the limits the Sharifs have traditionally worked within.

The message is inherent in the courier’s own description of himself. In a most pungent compliment to the increasingly transparent times we live in today, not so long ago Shehbaz Sahab declared himself to be the evergreen blue-eyed boy of the Pakistani establishment. He was ‘careful’ in that he delayed delivering this ultimate sobriquet for himself until after he had been freed from his services as a kind of stop-gap prime minister of Pakistan following the summary removal of the Imran Khan government. But then the remark appeared to be perfectly timed in the eyes of those who believed that big bro Nawaz himself needed to channel a bit of Shehbaz to improve his chances of coming to power again.

Shehbaz Sharif was never an under-study of Nawaz Sharif in politics. He was never an understudy in the sense that he had his pen mind and diction worked towards consolidating the family’s assets in his own unique way. As a younger brother, Shehbaz Sahab enjoyed certain liberties that were outside the domain of Mian Sahab because of his seniority and supreme leader status. The opportunity brought out the people’s man and the aggressive administrator in Shehbaz Sahab, depending on who he needed to summon from within at a particular moment. They were two very different personalities, acting as the perfect foil for each other, which didn’t mean one was in any way less committed to their ideology than the other.

Mian Sahab was forced to stand up and shout out his rebellious slogans by compulsion rather than a sudden desire for embracing the virtuous. In case you have time to spare, you may want to go over the periods of history preceding his declaration of independence. There were more than broader hints – there were clear clues that indicated that the prime minister was not just willing to share power, he was ready and happy to forgo parts of his authority in order to have good relations with you-know-who. The masters turned out to be a hard to please lot and seemingly wouldn’t give up until they had seen the back of this particular prime minister.

Honestly, Mian Sahab was not indulging in any rare antics as he tried, quite desperately, to stay afloat by conceding ground on crucial policies. He was doing exactly what the PPP and PTI prime ministers have done on their turns. What Mian Sahab would do well to remember on the side of the London-Lahore-London shuttle by his old chief associate is refrains the PPP and PTI folks returned to after their temporary flirting with ideas too revolutionary for their times and their land.

It is all very well to clear your throat once in a while as part of an exercise to make use of all the resistance songs churned out by by the so-called poets of the people – so long as you have the ability of a Shehbaz Sharif to perpetually play the frank frontman of the system, and an Asif Zardari to act as the same old wise champion of indiscriminate reconciliation with a particular focus on good ties with one certain quarter. So long as a revolting PTI prime minister, the most sincere, the cleanest and most honest can in the end be defeated into openly speaking in favour of a dialogue with those who matter.

It is crossroads such as these which give birth to necessary phrases such as ‘democracy is the best revenge’. These slogans camouflage the inability of a group to go beyond a certain point chasing certain objectives that have come to be associated with that group. An election date has been dangled. It will be prudent for the players most likely to take the proceedings forward to place their campaigns for accountability of a few on the back burner and concentrate on the bigger picture – in the name of revenge and the interest of democracy.

The writer is a senior journalist.