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Thursday August 18, 2022

A political obituary

June 25, 2022

It is widely believed that the Sharif brothers were a creation of the establishment, brought into politics to counter the Pakistan People’s Party in Punjab. The Sharifs received much patronage during the dictatorial regime of General Zia. Perhaps it was because of this history that former Prime Minister Imran Khan also taunted the Sharifs for being a product of the GHQ, asserting it was the so-called democratic brothers who were created by the establishment and not the PTI.

The formation of the IJI during the 1980s lends credence to the claims of detractors that the Pakistan Muslim League did not have impressive democratic credentials. But over the years, Nawaz Sharif learnt from past mistakes, joining hands with former prime minister, the late Benazir Bhutto, and coming up with the Charter of Democracy to strengthen people’s rule in the country. He respected the mandate of the PPP in the 2008 elections, patiently waiting for his turn. Though the MemoGate blunder did happen, by and large he sided with democratic forces and tried to strengthen the system.

The elder Sharif demonstrated great political sagacity by supporting the 18th Amendment that empowered the federating units of the country. This earned him praise from nationalist leaders across the country who have always felt that Punjab as the most populous province has been exploiting the smaller federal entities. Punjab even sacrificed some of its share in the National Finance Commission to help Balochistan. A number of students from Balochistan and former Fata were offered scholarships in Punjab for higher education. Such gestures by Nawaz Sharif made him popular among smaller provinces with many in these federating units asserting that he may be the only leader capable of addressing their grievances while reining in the non-democratic forces.

When he was removed from power for the second time in less than two decades, Nawaz Sharif vowed to wage a relentless struggle for the supremacy of parliament and civilian rule, asking people to support his campaign to respect the vote. The slogan not only made him a popular leader of the most populous province but also boosted his democratic reputation in other parts of the country. The slogan greatly improved the democratic credentials of Nawaz Sharif, washing away all his past sins.

But it seems the years-long struggle of Nawaz Sharif has not yielded any substantial results with his brother likely to go down in the history of Pakistan as the most servile chief executive. Had this benefited the common citizen or mitigated their economic hardships, it might have been tolerated. But since this has come with a myriad of anti-people economic policies, it is likely to infuriate people.

The helplessness of the incumbent prime minister over certain crucial issues will not go down well with those who had high hopes. Economic growth is stagnant. Poverty is rising. The cost of doing business is soaring and unemployment is haunting millions of Pakistani youth who are desperate to support their families.

Like the PTI government ministers, the leaders of the PML-N appear on TV channels daily, repeating the mantra of destruction caused by the previous government. They come up with tall claims of unearthing the corruption of the previous government but fail to send the same evidence to court so that the accused can be prosecuted.

In the coming months, the IMF is going to put more pressure on the government, asking to carry out more liberal economic reforms. The government is likely to pursue the policies of privatization, adding to the large army of the unemployed. In addition to that, further hikes in energy and petrol prices will create immense difficulties for traders and peasants which would alienate them.

The allies too do not seem to be happy with the current dispensation either. With a razor-thin majority and unpopular decisions, the N League may face a drubbing in the elections. Therefore, it is important that the party invests all energies in ensuring immediate and urgent relief for the people. If the incumbent government fails to do so, its political obituary will not only be written by its detractors but its supporters as well.

The writer is a freelance journalist who can be reached at: egalitarianism444@gmail.com

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