Is Nawaz Sharif been marginalized?
08 April, 2008
By Dr. Ghayur Ayub
It was May 13, 2006. A day before Nawaz Sharif and late Benazir Bhutto were going to sign Charter of Democracy; a historic document, equated by some to The Magna Carta.
The ceremony could run into problems, as a few members of PML-N team showed reservation in signing it at the residence of Rehman Malik-the ex-chief of FIA who had maltreated the late Mian Sahib. When the problem was brought to the notice of Nawaz Sharif, he thought for long time looking pensively into the faces of those sitting around him. There was complete silence in the room. Syed Ghaus Ali Shah’s face was blank, while all the others looked somber. I turned my face to look at Nawaz Sharif again, he was still thinking.
Then, he moved in his chair with slight unease. ‘We should sign it no matter where the place is. It’s an historic document and our personal feelings should not come in the way of this noble cause’.
I looked at him and realized in that moment he was one of the most misunderstood persons. His enemies called him a man with no vision or foresight. They ranked him an ordinary politician who got luck by becoming the prime minister twice. Contrarily, his colleagues respected him for taking difficult decisions at appropriate times. His friends loved him for keeping simplified social dignity. They saw a man with unmistaken ‘Haya’ in his eyes and respect for others. The decision he took there was far from simple politically. He kept his feelings distant when he took that decision.
Over a year later, when Benazir Bhutto was holding secrete parleys with general Musharaf, against the specific clauses of CoD, Nawaz Sharif kept silent and did not criticize her. At the same time, he maintained his firm stand opposing the general for derailing the democracy. Here was a leader showing statesmanship despite being provoked by media to speak against Benazir Bhutto. His statesmanship became apparent during the days, when Aitezaz’s strong support to Ch Iftikhar became a sore point with Benazir Bhutto. The relationship between the two touched the lowest ebb. It was then, when a colleague suggested to Nawaz Sharif to exploit the situation to his political advantage. Nawaz Sharif sent him a message stating, ‘We do not want to play any tricks with her. Let’s think and play straight.’ That was July 23, 2007. The next day at the party’s office in Duke St, London, the same colleague was feeling bad about his suggestion. Nawaz Sharif came and patted him on his back and smiled. That’s how he is in his attitude.
During the following months, BB concentrated on doing politics via the corridors of influential political powers of United States, and NS focused on politically empty streets of Pakistan. In one of the brainstorming meetings it was put to him to hire a firm in US as BB had. He strongly opposed it saying ‘we don’t need foreign hands to strengthen us in our struggle for democracy’. With that policy in mind, he landed up in Pakistan twice and was sent back to Saudi Arabia with humiliation the first time. On other hand, in an arranged return, Benazir was welcomed like a queen. After BB’s assassination, NS was the first to visit the hospital. In the following weeks, against a turmoil created by her murder, he made considerable political impact shown by the election results. His success in elections was based on understanding public feelings vis-à-vis two issues; restoration of judges; and removal of Musharaf.
After elections, good relations developed between him and Asif Zardari reviving the faded CoD in the form of Murree declaration. Both played a responsible role though the post-CoD distrust was still alive in memories and that the two parties had diverse views on key issues of restoration of judges and removal of Musharaf. The days and weeks that followed the elections presented events showing as if some forces were trapping or isolating Nawaz Sharif. What were those forces and how did they work? Let’s us look at a few issues in that context;
On Musharaf; PPP started having backchannel parleys with presidency after Murree declaration, repeating the story following the signing of CoD. In this context, Ahmad Mukhtar, a close friend of Asif Ali Zardari, stated on TV that Benazir wanted to go along with Musharraf. He further said, president’s role could be of great help in the fight against terrorism and in ensuring the country’s security. In contrast, Nawaz Sharif, insisted he would not work with him in any capacity.
On Ch. Ifthikhar; Asif Ali Zardari had offered the position of Balochistan governor to Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as reported on television. This meant his stance on the sacked CJP was changing as this position was contrary to Murree declaration; again, in contrast, Nawaz Sharif’s stand on this issue was clear and unshakable.
On judges; It is said, a PPP minister had met some of the deposed judges to seek assurances that once restored, they would not re-open cases against President Musharraf. He had been telling each judge, that he met other judges who agreed to the condition. Later, when some of them got together, they found that the minister was bluffing. In another move, some PPP stalwarts were said to have become part of this game plan to offset the PPP commitment to restore judges through a resolution in the National Assembly. Farooq Naik had recommended constituting a committee to decide whether sacked judges would be restored through a parliamentary resolution or through a constitutional amendment. This statement of the law minister was in complete contrast to the Murree Declaration, which clearly stated that the restoration of the deposed judges would be done through a national assembly resolution.
On MQM; Asif Ali Zardari, following the policy of ‘forgive and forget’, had offered MQM a share in Sindh cabinet and showed intention to give two to three slots in federal cabinet. In response, Nawaz Sharif convened a meeting of party MNAs and MPAs to discuss the PPP plans. It is said that majority of PML-N leaders were opposed to the PPP’s inclusion of MQM in the federal government. According to the PML-N sources, Zardari called Nawaz Sharif and tried to convince him about the matter but he was unsuccessful.
On new appointments; the first four appointments by Asif Ali Zardari, created a stir in the hierarchy of PML-N. It is said that PML-N has decided not to appoint officers with bad reputation. To prove this point, Shahbaz Sharif asked for one of the most honest bureaucrats as the chief secretary of Punjab.
On PCO of November 3, 2007; a top legal mind of the PPP Sardar Latif Khosa, has been expressing his views that the constitutional changes made by President Musharraf through his PCOs are now part of the constitution. In a TV talk show, he said the Constitution stood amended after the Nov 3 PCOs. This viewpoint is contrary to the stance taken by the signatories of Murree Declaration that the right to amend the Constitution is solely with parliament.
On conspiracy theory by the presidency; many believe that a conspiracy is hatched; to block the restoration of deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry; to keep Musharaf for full term of five years; and to marginalize Nawaz Sharif and exclude PML-N from coalition in the center by making a new coalition between PPP, ANP, MQM and PML-Q. This conspiracy is thought to be hatched by the presidential camp. It is called ‘Minus one Formula’. It offers a Constitutional package, which would restore all judges except Ch Iftikhar, at the same time re-appoint all sitting judges after a review de novo by a parliamentary committee of both the houses of parliament. If this conspiracy theory is true than, it has the following fivefold aims, in addition to the objectives mentioned above;
1. To make parties like PML-N accept the PCO-PLUS of November 3, 2007, a Constitutional Act. This will tarnish Nawaz Sharif’s image.
2. To give a breathing space to President Musharaf (who is under tremendous pressure to quit) by diverting the attention of those who want to see him go.
3. To put Nawaz Sharif in a tight corner and create a wedge in his party, especially when the future of Punjab Assembly is not yet clear.
4. To compel Aitezaz Ahsan take a compromised line. It is reported that he is eyeing for NA.55 seat and waiting for a nod by Asif Zardari who is annoyed with him.
5. To weaken PPP by encouraging those disgruntled PPP leaders who are being ignored by Asif Ali Zardari or opposed to his friendly parleys with MQM.
This conspiracy is the product of a plan written by Musharaf’s team before sacking the then CJP, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudry on March 9, 2007. In that plan, the well-wishers of the then General Musharaf wanted a future government headed by him and composed of PPP, PML-Q, ANP and MQM. It seems what we see today in political arena is the rebirth of plan hatched in good old days of dictatorial rule. It is testing times primarily for Nawaz Sharif, who fought election keeping the feelings of common men on the streets in mind. If he did not succumb to pressures and accepted being marginalized, he will go down in history as a politician who stood like a statesman and fought a just war to recover the independence of judiciary which fell into the hands of the army back in 1956. Keeping his past history of standing against unwanted powers in mind, he will do what is expected of him.