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Opinion

Shahzad Chaudhry
September 22, 2017

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The making of a political heiress

The making of a political heiress

Maryam Nawaz was formally launched into politics on September 17, 2017, the day of the by-election for a National Assembly seat vacated by her father, Nawaz Sharif, after being disqualified by the Supreme Court from the position of the prime minister of Pakistan.

The court found in urgent order inconsistencies of conduct in the person of NS which stood him in violation of Article 62 of the constitution and its sub-clauses. The generic nature of the charge enabled ample space to puritans and cynics alike to trash the verdict as targeted and exaggerated for the lack of evidence needed to prove someone guilty of a charge with as loose a definition as is contained in the article.

This has left a number of questions unanswered: was NS pre-judged for indisputable crimes, not yet tried by the court – they instead referred the matter to the accountability courts for charges emerging from their scrutiny of the evidence retaining the status of the SC as an appellate court? Did they, for example in very crass terms, see vile in their scrutiny which was just too odious for them to     let Nawaz continue in the position of the prime minister?

Unsure whether the corrupted system of accountability courts would actually hold someone as important as NS guilty of what was visible to the justices, the least they could do was to separate him from the position of the highest executive authority which assumes a certain level of personal fidelity and decent conduct. And, hence, resorted to what were to them the only clauses in the constitution empowering them to disqualify a sitting prime minister. Knowing well this would be a loose qualification of a guilt severely berated on the evening television, they yet stuck their neck out in the larger good. Didn’t Justice Asif Khosa quote: ‘justice may be blind but judges are not’?

And, since the justices rarely explain themselves other than through judgments, it became an open field for all, puritans and cynics, to cry conspiracy – Pakistani intelligentsia’s default recourse which invokes the military in the shadows of everything that seems unsavoury. Not just the intelligentsia, those impacted by the events too. As was in this case when NS, after his disqualification, travelled back to his hometown in Lahore on the GT Road, and invoked over four days with careless abandon the hidden hand of the ‘powers that be’ which had de-seated an elected prime minister ‘of the people, from the people’.

A case that was only half-tried and half-adjudicated, without ample explanation to save blushes all around, was how the judges pronounced; and that opened the space for a major political party and its leadership to go, full-bore, against their nation’s military. All in all, the judgment will still stand the test of jurisprudential scrutiny, for being just if not procedurally adequate – subject to fair judicial accountability in the NAB Court. Yet, the worms have already spilled out. Time may settle things down but it remains an open season. There are as many opinions as are mouths and space aplenty to keep all relevant, and the people, confused and guessing. Not a good place to be for nation struggling to establish its future course through its most difficult times, internally and externally.

It is in such season that NS decided to launch his daughter as the heir to his throne. Whether right or wrong, that is for the family to grapple with but she was entrusted to lead the campaign for her mother in NA-120 over all others in the family. The decision will reverberate through the rank and file and determine the future shape that the PML-N takes, but Maryam at a tender political age will carry a heavy burden. Whatever shape the party takes in the ensuing melee, the die is cast and Maryam is the next leader assuming that NS’ fate does get sealed beyond Article 62   following a trial by the NAB Court. If so, he is history and Maryam is here to stay. The tea leaves so hint at.

So then what values has Maryam Nawaz imbibed in her lead-up to the decision of inheriting the biggest political party of Pakistan and its largest province, with a majority in the assembly and an incumbent government? Forget ‘Dawnleaks’ for being too controversial; it is her father’s disqualification and his rally on the GT Road crying conspiracy and an anti-military        rhetoric that partners judiciary in derailing democracy. Democracy in this case being the person of NS. He also, in an interview, claimed that he was now an ideological being after having “suffered” so much. What does Maryam say in an interview later, ‘I too am an ideologue hereon, like my father’. Note her victory speech on behalf of her mother after the PMLN won NA-120.    Full of aspersions and not so veiled references to the military.         Whose military? Of the nation that her government runs today and she hopes to govern one day.

That is the sad part of it all. A young lady beginning her career as the potential head of the party believes and states without reservations that the military and the judiciary of that nation are her true opponents. What are we getting into? The people who vote for them don’t understand the nuances of their leader’s loaded statements and vote for them for tribal reasons unable to understand the sophistry of power politics which in reality determines the future of their country and society. Yet they get invoked as the ultimate arbiters in this communalised vendetta.

Their determinations are simple and too basic to make any long-drawn conclusions of how their invested power fares in their service. Beyond the electoral exercise they remain at the lowest rung of the priority ladder in any consideration to barely eek an existence. Yet it is in their name that we corrupt the system of power to exploit and entitle ourselves to the privileges that come with it. It remains an inexcusable travesty.

I have spent a significant number of years of my life in Western democracies and more or less founded my political understanding based on such experience. To me, politics is about public service. People who chose it were imbued with the spirit of service and sacrifice for others in the society. To me, power is shared, as in the Westminster model, and the prime minister was just that: a prime minister, who could exchange positions within the cabinet and his party if the political wisdom so ordained – or if he became blotted. Presidents were impeached. And heavens did not fall.

Why is it only here that democracy derails if one guy changes position? That too on account of a misdeed and a crime? And why only with the PML-N does such an event endanger democracy? To save one man and hold on to power, they wager the nation. My simple, non-political mind is unable to fathom.

 

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