NationalVOLUME 16 ISSUE # 04

Nawaz Sharif crosses ‘red lines’

The address of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to a recently-held opposition Multiparty Conference (MPC) seemingly is an all-out war against the country’s military establishment as he outspokenly declared that his party’s struggle was not against the sitting government of Prime Minister Imran Khan but against the forces which brought him to power.

According to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, there is “a state above the state” in the country, clearly referring to the military establishment. He said that once there used to be a “state within the state” but today there was a “state above the state.” Referring to the multidimensional issues of the country, he said, “This parallel government illness is the root-cause of our problems.” He made his speech through video-link from London, where he has been living for the last many months on health grounds. He was released by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government after now proven fudged health reports that he needed extreme healthcare which was not possible in Pakistan and he could only be taken care of in England. However, there have been reports that Nawaz Sharif has been quite well and healthy and even walking and visiting hotels etc while in London. The speech of Nawaz Sharif to the opposition MPC held on September 20, has now unearthed an “open secret” that he is quite well and healthy and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), concocted his medical reports to send him outside the country. Before going abroad, the former prime minister was serving a jail term for money laundering and possessing offshore assets without known income sources.

The speech of Nawaz Sharif was important mainly due to two reasons. Firstly, it was made by a former three-time prime minister of Pakistan, a feat unmatched in the country’s history. Secondly, he revealed what constraints the civilian governments faced. He said, “Either we have martial laws in the country or a strong parallel government is created whenever we have a civilian government.” He went on explaining: “Pakistan has been constantly deprived of a democratic system. When it is decided before the election process as to who will win and who will lose, it can be guessed how the public is betrayed and how the public mandate is stolen.”

There must have been a lot of substance in the arguments of the former premier; however, a closer look at his statement and the political history of Pakistan reveals that he himself has been the biggest beneficiary of the military establishment management of the political arena in the past. He remained the prime minister thrice and each time he got elected whether in the snap polls of 1990, 1997 or 2013, and each time the electoral process was highly suspected. He was indubitably given complete support by the then military establishment and former Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence, the late Lt. General Hameed Gul, who on record has admitted helping Nawaz Sharif and his PML-N win elections in 1990. It is important to recall that in the face of a rise of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in the late 1990s, the country’s military establishment had created a nine-party Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), led by Nawaz Sharif and his PML-N, to help it win elections and prevent Benazir Bhutto from getting power. However, the establishment could not stop her from winning a majority, albeit thin, in the 1988 elections but only after less than two years of rule she was dismissed by the establishment through its handpicked President Ghulam Ishaq Khan to pave the way for Nawaz Sharif to become the prime minister in order to toe their line on foreign, defence and internal security policy.

More importantly, it was former military dictator General Zia and his confidante and Governor of the Punjab, General Jilani, who handpicked Nawaz Sharif and made him a minister in the Punjab out of nowhere. Then on every occasion, he was helped and rescued by the military establishment. Despite Nawaz Sharif’s proven financial corruption and conviction for years by the country’s Supreme Court, he was able to hoodwink the country’s system to leave the country. It was only possible because of the 30 years long presence of the Sharif family and their PML-N supporters in each and every institution of the state. It is now an open secret that Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N had lost the 2013 national elections but through his connections he was able to turn the tables on the PTI of Imran Khan, which was leading the polls, to emerge a winner. The biggest proof of it was the late night speech of Nawaz Sharif on Election Day. It shocked everyone as polling had ended at around 5pm and by midnight he was asking unknown people to give him a heavy mandate. So to whom he was addressing is an open secret.

In the context of the facts, the recent speech of Nawaz Sharif to the opposition MPC is tantamount to shedding crocodile tears. Had he wanted to limit the military or any other institution to its constitutional limits he could have done it very easily when in power thrice. However, quite diametrically opposite, he always connived with the powers that be to come to the saddle. Now when he has been ousted and fled the country and is at a stage of his life that he does not have a personal political career, he has come up with a speech which is immaterial and inconsequential. There is not even an iota of doubt in the argument that the military or any other state institution, except the parliament, which is supreme in the country, has no political role. If state institutions try to control policymaking, political wisdom of centuries of experiences and scholarship has proved that it is disastrous for the country. There is voluminous literature on the fact that most developed countries and where the people have significantly higher satisfaction and happiness levels have mostly been those where democracy has been quite strong. However, democracy in the countries has not only been in the form of elections, as has been in the case of Pakistan or many Third World countries, but in the shape of fully blossomed democratic culture. For it, people have to be politically aware and participating, rather than mostly remaining silent spectators. Political parties, like the PML-N, have contributed nothing to democratic culture in the country, rather strengthened and reinforced authoritarian structures, whether in the form of an ostensibly democratic facade or an outright military rule.