October 12, 1999, was the day when Nawaz Sharif’s government was ousted. If we are not suffering from selective amnesia, we would remember that there was a sigh of relief. The perception was that a political dictator had been set aside. The truth is that we all should pinch ourselves to be reminded of the realities that envelope us in the landscape of political leadership that we have to bare with.
Sick of Musharraf’ policies and the presence of the US in Afghanistan, a large number of voters opted to side with the so-called, principled stand of Nawaz Sharif in the February elections. The stand was no other than the judges’ issue, which had been mishandled by the previous government, exploited by the political parties and thus was an easy case to be hijacked by Nawaz Sharif. And so the advisers of Nawaz convinced him to keep on repeating this as an anti-Musharraf slogan not only to take all the anti-Musharraf vote for his party but also to absolve him of the greatest sin ever committed in the history of Pakistan — the 1997 storming of the Supreme Court of Pakistan by the hooligans of his party at the time of Justice Sajjad Ali Shah.
A new politically correct face was in fashion at the time of these elections and both Zardari with a trimmed moustache and a well-trained look and words to utter that are not his own, and Nawaz Sharif — a pro-judge restoration policy — were able to take good advantage of it in the elections. They are indeed good politicians, but are they indeed honest enough to come to the expectations of the poor people of our country? Between the two leaders scurrying off to Dubai and hurrying back, the public is in a state of paralysis. Where do the judges stand? Are we fools to be taken in by all the discrepancies that are revolving around the two leaders. How on God’s earth can the so-called technocrat assistants of Zardari and the political wizards of Nawaz Sharif be dealing with inflation, shortage of electricity and price hike of essential commodities in a seven-star hotel facility in Dubai? Are these negotiations on the judiciary issue or is all this eyewash?
Most political leaders, because of less time for democracy to flourish in our country, are power hungry. They want absolute power, a vice attributed to dictators, but as applicable to most of the political leadership of our country. Late Benazir Bhutto wanted that in the form of a totally subservient judiciary, Nawaz also followed suit and desired a subservient COAS in the form of Gen Ziauddin, in spite of having the security of a two-thirds majority, thus destabilizing the political environment and giving way to army rule. The great criticism on the role of the armed forces in civil institutions which is absolutely justified was in fact encouraged and introduced by Nawaz Sharif in the form of recovery of bills of WAPDA at the time of his two-thirds majority.
The history of these leaders and others cannot be condensed in this one article but we need to remind ourselves that we need to learn and guide ourselves by these historic events. And may I remind you that the protagonists in this glimpse of history are none other than the present coalition. Some of us fools are forced to believe that they are changed people and better leaders after their exiles. This is indeed not our fault, since there is a serious lack of leadership in the present political scenario. However we need to strengthen our institutions for this country to be able to survive. The judiciary has already been compromised by falling into the hands of the political parties. We need to chalk out ways to enhance the functioning of all our institutions, whether education, health, or the judiciary. We need to pave a path for the restoration of the judges, not by anti-state activities but through some form of legislation that would not allow any unconstitutional steps.
Some journalists and column writers, politicians and businessmen in this country call the existing government leaders, statesmen. Vow. After pondering over the past is it naivety to announce that or is it something more dangerous? Are they shrewd enough to fool the uneducated and also the so-called great drawing-room experts or will we call their bluff? Let’s ask ourselves what has changed after the elections, the foreign policy or the price hike?
We are seeing a volley of attacks on “poor Mr Zardari” for having tried to have a “reconciliation environment for the larger interest of the nation” succeed. By the way, the same “larger interest” the people of our country hated at the time of the PML-Q and Musharraf era. He is being blamed for being cast in the same mould as Musharraf, and the same analysts are making a mistake yet again by giving credit to Nawaz Sharif for sticking to his stance.
For God’s sake let’s be realistic. The Murree accord — which has already changed names, God knows what would happen to the content of it — is still not clear. Nawaz does not seem to want to relinquish his hold in Punjab, so why break his relationship with the PPP at all levels. I smell ambition here! Isn’t it great how everyone is getting a share in the government by stating that they are desirous of keeping the spirit of reconciliation? Indeed, how convenient!
It is the responsibility of the civil society, journalists, politicians and professionals to participate in the efforts for nation building. Each one of us is responsible for this tremendous task. May God enable us to be true to our selves and this country.
The writer was a federal minister for information technology in the previous government. Email: awaisleghari @hotmail.com
The News, 5/5/2008