Aitzaz and Raja Ashraf's laments
29 August, 2013
By Asif Haroon Raja
Nawaz belonging to a conservative family with religious bent of mind shot into prominence on the political landscape because of patronage of Gen Zia. He became chief minister Punjab during PPP's first tenure from 1988 to 1990. During the 1970s when ZA Bhutto was in power, his autocracy and rigging in 1977 elections brought all political and religious parties on single platform. Slogan of 'Islam in danger' was used to energize Nizam-e-Mustafa movement and to push Bhutto against the wall and to impel Zia to take over the reins of the country in July that year.
Nawaz had witnessed the charged sentiments of the people desiring Islamic system. After seeing the downfall of all-powerful Shah of Iran and takeover of an Islamic government in March 1979, he then saw how tenaciously the Islamists fought the Soviet forces in Afghanistan against heavy odds for a decade and ultimately defeated the super power. Pakistan had a key role in the war. He had also observed the contrasting role of Al-Zulfiqar led by Bhutto sons getting assistance from Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, India and USSR and indulging in anti-state activities throughout the Afghan war.
During Nawaz's first tenure from 1990 to 1993, Shariah Act was passed by National Assembly in May 1991, which made it obligatory for Muslims to follow injunctions of Islam. He watched the peaking of freedom movement in occupied Kashmir and the valor of Kashmiris resisting the might of over 700,000 Indian security forces and braving their gruesome brutality. It had led to emergence of several Jihadi groups in Azad Kashmir. In the 1990s, religious extremism and sectarianism had intensified as consequence to fallout of Afghan Jihad, uprising in Kashmir and support of Saudi Arabia and Iran to sectarian outfits. Al-Qaeda under Osama bin Laden had also turned its guns against US targets in the region. While Pakistan was under US sanctions and had virtually been abandoned, India taking advantage of its strategic alignment with USA had stepped up its diplomatic efforts to get Pakistan branded as a terrorism abetting state.
Nawaz Sharif gained two-thirds majority in 1997 elections and was unquestionably the most populous leader in the country in that timeframe. One reason of his popularity was that he had wrongly been denied the right to rule by the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan after he was reinstated by Supreme Court in April 1993. The other reason was the poor showing of Benazir Bhutto (BB) led government and corruption scandals of her spouse Zardari during the two stints in power. Shifting the power policy from hydro to highly expensive thermal power through IPPs laid the foundation for energy crisis. The PPP misrules had caused severe damage to democracy, restored in end 1988 after the eleven year rule of Gen Ziaul Haq and his death in air crash in August 1988.
Under the religiously charged geo-political environment and his own conservative background, if Nawaz had desired introduction of Shariah after obtaining a heavy mandate in 1997 and had got Shariah bill passed from the Lower House, his longing was neither out of context nor against the wishes of the great majority in Pakistan. Although he never mentioned that he wanted to become Ameerul Momineen of an Islamic Emirate, his detractors attributed it to him out of malice for Islamic system. Secular writers keep taunting him that he had become so intoxicated with power that he vied to become Ameerul Momineen. Seculars in Pakistan are thankful to Gen Musharraf for dashing his dreams and saving Pakistan from becoming an Islamic State. It is a different matter that secular lawyer community cooked the goose of Musharraf, the sponsor of concept of enlightened moderation.
Both BB and Nawaz vied to wear the crown for the third time during their exile. BB was not lucky to accomplish her wish for she was murdered on December 27th, 2007 when the crown was within her grasping reach. Nawaz had to wait longer and had to wade through thorny path but ultimately succeeded in becoming PM for the third time in June 2013. People say it was because of his closeness with religion and sincerity of purpose that he was bestowed with this near impossible honor and create history.
Much against general perception of hung parliament, PML-N once again managed to obtain heavy majority in the centre and in Punjab and was in a comfortable position to make its government in Balochistan and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Nawaz generously allowed National Party led by Dr Malick to form a government in Balochistan and his rival PTI in KP thereby burying cut-throat politics of manipulation. Seized with the magnitude of problems gifted to him by PPP led regime, his team has started to tackle complex problems to stem the rot of inefficiency and corruption which have destroyed state corporations.
Nawaz's address to the nation has evoked barrage of criticism from PPP stalwarts. Ill-famed Aitzaz Ahsan and reviled ex PM Raja Rental who had miserably lost elections from his home constituency had the audacity to say that his address was disappointing. They forget their own disappointing and shameless roles. Aitzaz sucked up to Zardari to acquire Senate seat. While defending Gilani charged with contempt of court, he made a u-turn in his stance on writing a letter to Swiss authorities and strongly advocated that Gilani was right in not writing a letter since president enjoyed immunity.
How has Nawaz failed to tackle decade old terrorism as claimed by him in his two-month old rule and that too in the absence of national security and counter terrorism policies and above all, conflicting views of political parties and public whether it is our war or someone else's war, and whether we should continue fighting or negotiate? In the backdrop of existing anomalies lingering since Musharraf's era, what was so drastically wrong on part of Nawaz to say that the government is ready to exercise both options of talk and fight and will choose the one agreed upon by all stakeholders.
Nawaz is not confused; it is Jayalas like Raja Ashraf and Aitzaz who are flabbergasted since none listen to them. Instead of appreciating the economic wizard Ishaq Dar managing to pay off Rupees 480 billion circular debt in quick time and increase electricity generation to 17000MW to provide immediate relief to the people and let them keep fasts and celebrate Eid in peace, PPP leaders are dejectedly questioning as to how the debt was retired. Asif Khawaja is relentlessly chasing the electricity thieves, bill payment defaulters and corrupt elements and is checking line losses. Gas and power theft is consuming Rupees 150-200 billion while FATA, settled areas of KP and some other regions are hardly paying any electricity dues. Besides activating Nandipur and Neelum-Jhelum projects, China has shown willingness to help ease energy crisis. Efforts are already underway to exploit coal as an alternative source of energy. World Bank and ADB have now shown readiness to fund Bhasha dam.
Why should Nawaz have spelled out terms of negotiations with TTP before hand? Does he as a lawyer show his cards before hand while defending his client or prosecuting his opponent in law courts? This is called criticism for the sake of criticism when one has nothing concrete to offer.
Concerning security plan about which the two had never spoken earlier, Interior Minister had already informed the nation that both national and counter terrorism policies would be presented by the end of this month. If the security forces have fought the war for a decade without these policies, I reckon we can afford to wait for few more weeks. DCC (now renamed) meeting chaired by the PM and attended by all Service Chiefs and CJSC has been held on 22 August to take stock of internal and external security matters and it has been decided that talks will be held with only those who surrender arms.
Raja Ashraf says that Nawaz had nothing to offer but vague promises. I am sure his repeated firm promises he made to the nation to end load shedding must be haunting him. While Aitzaz distinctly remembers the promise made by Shahbaz Sharif during election campaign to end load shedding, he doesn't remember Raja Ashraf's false promises and his disastrous RPP project. Nandipur and Neelum-Jhelum hydro projects capable of overcoming energy crisis were immobilized because of lethargy and incompetence. While Kalabagh dam was scored off at the very outset, no progress was made on Diamer-Bhasha dam.
Aitzaz's lament that the PM didn't announce any mega project for Balochistan is far from truth. Balochistan will benefit the most from the projected development of Kashgar-Gwadar Highway. Gadani coal projects will add to the prosperity of the province. Above all, letting nationalist leaders to hold two highest portfolios in the province is a clear indication that Nawaz is determined to address the grievances of Balochistan.
Aitzaz said that PPP is thinking of moving Supreme Court on Nandipur issue. It dare not for its cupboards are full of skeletons. PPP leading lights must first return back the stolen wealth before casting stones on others and holding them accountable. The last regime has left behind such a huge mess that it is impossible to clean it in months. The stink is too foul and nauseating which will take time to fade away. Piplas are rightly perplexed to see the fast occurring changes since they had spent their five years in looting and merrymaking and had run the affairs of the state by printing Rupees three billion currency notes daily.
The writer is a defence analyst and a freelance analyst. firstname.lastname@example.org