MIRZA ASLAM BEG: AFTER a long hearing, extending over several sessions, the trial court gave the verdict against Nawaz Sharif, rejecting their appeal for seven days delay, enabling them to be present on the occasion. It is a harsh judgment which sentenced Nawaz Sharif to 10 years in prison and a fine of 8 million pounds; his daughter Maryam Nawaz 7 years and fined two million pounds and retired Capt Safdar, his son-in-law one year rigorous imprisonment. The verdict has come at a critical time, with general elections only a two weeks away to be held in a most complex environment, yet the outcome of the elections could be predicted quite clearly, based on the ground realities. Let us get down to count the ground realities, which place Nawaz Sharif in a position of strategic political advantage, on his march to Honor the Vote.
One: The grounds of court verdict, in both the cases of “Aqama” and “Avenfield Apartments” are not very convincing, which provide the necessary space to Nawaz Sharif first to launch successful public agitation in case of Aqama verdict and now on July 13 on their return from London another agitation has been planned. Two:The sitting government of Nawaz Sharif provided the much needed support to Aqama agitations and to some extent that advantage now will be available to him due to the neutrality of the caretaker government for the July 13 agitations. There would be no mass arrests or ban on agitation as in 1999, and the PML-N leadership would be free to achieve their purpose. Three: Nawaz Sharif is challenging the judiciary and the Army, who had been the part of the Nexus which brought down several elected governments in the past. Blaming the national institutions is ill-conceived, yet it gives them a slogan and a cause, which is a must for the success of the movement.
Four: Ostensibly Nawaz is not struggling for premiership, power or prestige, he has enjoyed these several times. He is fighting for the cause of democracy, despite being sentenced for money laundering and corruption. His voters see the righteousness of the cause in his struggle, despite the verdict. They will stand by his side, less those who disagree with him, or have chosen to leave him at the time of his distress. Five: Out of the 10.6 crore voters, Punjab alone has 60% of them. If PML(N) gets only 40% of these votes, it would emerge as the largest party, with its own government in Punjab as well as in the center, in coalition with others. Six: The rural areas of Punjab is the political power base of the party, where Shahbaz Sharif has done enough to attract the voters. Travel through Punjab and you will see the change.
Seven: Pakistani nation possess a delicate political sensibility of sympathy for the under dog and the oppressed. For example, the Pakistan Peoples Party was brutalized. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged and the leadership was declared Security Risk yet the people voted for them in 1988. Undoubtedly PML(N) will get the sympathy votes over the others. Eight: Despite the allegations of corruption, Nawaz Sharif remains the hope for the party voters and not Shahbaz Sharif or Mariam. The voters would rally around him being the oppressed, despite the allegations and defections of some important political personalities. Nine: If the PML(N) voters have had a choice other than Nawaz, they would rather sit at home, than to vote for Zardari or Imran Khan, particularly, who for the purity of his soul, rubbed his forehead at the threshold of the revered Saint.
Ten: PML(N) represents the moderate Muslim thought, challenged by the liberals, while the religious right is trying to enter the center stage of national politics. Thus, the situation presents ‘a peculiar mix of alternate voting choices’, which is a healthy trend determining the new contours of the emerging democratic order, after July 25, 2018, elections. Eleven: According to Nawaz Sharif his political struggle is facing the threat from the Khalai Makhlook identifiable by looking at the incident, which occurred during the 2008 elections:
“President Bush visited Pakistan before 2008 elections and gave a pat to Gen Musharraf for making excellent arrangements for regime change in Pakistan, through the democratic process, but the expected results of the elections got reversed to the dismay of the US policy planners. The Washington Times, thus lamented (more or less), in these words: “The policy makers in Washington must rue the day, they decided regime change in Pakistan, through the democratic process. Lo and behold, Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League has emerged as the leading party in the largest province of Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif is close to Taliban and is friend to such persons who are known American haters.”
The myth of Khalai Makhlook is a reality, engaged in machinations, from beyond the borders and not from within the country. Our national institutions are being used as decoys. I am sure the PML(N) leadership is cognizant of this fact. So far so good. Something extraordinary is happening with NAB carrying out accountability, top-downwards, without discrimination. Corruption is endemic to our day to day life and the process must continue for months and years to root out the evil, to present the real face of Pakistan.
(The writer is former COAS, Pakistan Army).