Nawaz Sharif, the march on Islamabad and mid-term elections

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By Amjad Warraich

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief Nawaz Sharif has begun confrontational politics in the country by delivering an aggressive speech at his party’s general council meeting on Saturday.

Nawaz had invited party delegates from all over Pakistan to take them into confidence on the current political situation with a clear objective to mobilise them for possible agitation against the federal government.

Saturday’s meeting was the second of its kind since 1993 when Nawaz formed his faction of the PML. The first was held on August 19, 1996, which the PML-N leadership believes helped the party win with a two-thirds majority in the 1997 elections.

Earlier, it was announced through the media that the general council meeting was aimed at consulting the members on key decisions on the party’s future course of action in various possible scenarios. However, the number of delegates and the leaders’ speeches show that the workers were taken into confidence on the decisions already made by the party’s central executive committee several days ago.

The contents of the speeches and poems recited in the meeting show that Nawaz has made up his mind to launch a protest movement against the PPP government. This is contrary to his previous stance that he will not become part of any conspiracy to weaken or destabilise the government.

The speech has shocked those who were claiming that now the PML-N chief is a changed man, as the path he has chosen is exactly the same he had been treading in the 1980s and 1990s to serve his political objectives. It has also stunned those who were mediating a truce between him and President Asif Ali Zardari.

Some hold that Nawaz has used the mediators to gain time. In the meanwhile, he struck a deal with the PPP and the PML-Q to get the maximum possible number of senators from his party elected unopposed. The situation would have been different for the PML-N if the PPP and the PML-Q had joined hands in the Senate elections.

By making reconciliatory gestures, Nawaz also deprived the PPP of almost two strategically crucial weeks to act amid new political developments.

The PML-N chief slammed Zardari and General (r) Pervez Musharraf in his speech. He levelled two serious allegations against Zardari who is also the co-chairman of the PPP. He categorically accused Zardari of backing Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer against the PML-N provincial government, and plotting his electoral ineligibility.

He narrated his version of the political developments since 1993 to his grassroots operators – including his achievements in his two terms in government, his dismissal as the prime minister in 1993 and 1999, and what happened to him during and after the 1999 military coup. It seemed like a strategic move to equip his workers with arguments to counter those of the other parties and convince the masses to support his party.

Nawaz’s selection of words showed his intention to charge his workers with political sentiments. He expressed hatred for Musharraf and used strong words against the PPP leadership.

However, he was careful in his mention of the PML-Q leadership, which shows that the Chaudhrys might fit somewhere in his future scheme of things.

He appeared firm in his speech. His body language showed that he is convinced that the Supreme Court is going to decide against him in his electoral eligibility case.

Nawaz’s assurance to lawyers on Friday that his party would fully participate in their sit-in and his speech on Saturday are being taken as strong indicators of his decision to pursue his agenda of midterm elections. It seems that the PML-N chief is on his way to a head-on collision with the PPP, and how the PPP reacts to the new political developments is of crucial importance.

Source: Daily Times, 22-Feb-09

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