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Political blunders

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been badly trapped in the marshes of his own political blunders and crimes. History shows that his tenures have lasted for not more than two and a half years. This time, though, the dharna-driven opposition slowed down his political suicide. Otherwise, he was on a self-destructive course from the very beginning.

In the past, this would have led to the end of his government in two years, but this time he started his resistance from the very beginning of his tenure. However, it was either due to the incompetence of his opponents or sheer luck that he survived four years of his tenure.

It is no less than a miracle that Nawaz survived a general’s wrath in 1999. Though his government was toppled and he was imprisoned for some time, he safely landed in Saudi Arabia. Again, it was either his good luck or special prayers that the sacrifices made by others and the political cards used by the late Benazir Bhutto paved the way for him to rise again. This time, he was thought to be a changed person: mature, sagacious and pragmatic. But unfortunately, he took his political mandate for granted and failed to realise that sometimes history repeats itself. He started repeating past political blunders and crimes: the list is a long one.

First, Nawaz came into power through a democratic process, but started to rule undemocratically by establishing a family-run rule. Being all in all, he made his party toothless, ignored parliament and sidelined his party workers and trusted friends. He preferred sycophants or remnants of the Musharraf regime over his time-tested workers and supporters.

Second, he weakened the federation by practically establishing the rule of central Punjab over the rest of the country. Ignoring the smaller provinces, he distributed a major chunk of the political cake among his courtiers from a specific region. He distributed all the important cabinet portfolios among his relatives or representatives of central Punjab.

Being the symbol of the unity of the federation, an active president was needed to strengthen the federation, but Nawaz preferred a person who could not do justice to his responsibilities. Similarly, he selected physically weak but very obedient governors to carry on his vested interests in the provinces. He weakened his own pillars of strength by courting the PPP in Sindh, PkMAP in Balochistan and the JUI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – at the cost of his own party workers. This led to disappointment and frustration among the people of the smaller provinces, southern Punjab and even his own party workers.

Third, CPEC has been a golden opportunity for strengthening the federation and uplifting the socio-economic conditions of the deprived regions. Unfortunately, the current government’s vested parochial interests made the game-changer project a source of controversies. Instead of healing the wounds struck by abject poverty, the strategic project augmented the grievances of the people. The Nawaz government’s tendency to keep secret crucial details related to the project ended up misleading the Chinese as well as the people of Pakistan. People will forget the Panama leaks the day all facts related to CPEC are leaked to the public.

Fourth, Nawaz failed to introduce a strong, free and fair accountability mechanism and bring about the highly-needed electoral and structural reforms. He instead continued with the old accountability system that was introduced by Musharraf and perverted by Asif Ali Zardari.

Fifth, during his tenure, the war against terror and extremism entered a decisive stage, but Nawaz failed to provide spirited leadership at such a crucial time. He left the matter to the army and continued to pursue his political interests. Though the National Action Plan has been a promising goal, the current government failed to implement it. There also seems to be no progress in the war against extremism and extremist narratives. The merger of Fata in KP could help win the long war against extremism, but the government created a deadlock over the issue through their allies in KP and Balochistan.

Sixth, a successful foreign policy needs a powerful Foreign Office and a competent team to pursue the national interest. Unfortunately, the Foreign Office has been rendered irrelevant and such a gigantic task has been entrusted to an incompetent team. Undoubtedly, there have been big challenges on the international front. But there have also been many opportunities. Regrettably, there has been a failure when it comes to us using those opportunities in the interests of the country.

Seventh, strong state institutions are a pre-requisite for good governance and efficient service delivery. But during the current tenure, the vital state institutions have become weak and inefficient. The National Accountability Bureau has been rendered toothless and the judiciary has lost the vigour and position it had achieved during the Lawyer’s Movement. Similarly, the media got weakened, divided and incapable of making any difference. It will take the state institutions years – even decades – to strengthen and establish their credibility.

And, finally, there is the prime minister’s tussle with the military. After coming into power, Nawaz was supposed to forget past wounds, make a new start and bridge the gulf with the military. Unfortunately, he failed to learn from the past and came out looking over-ambitious, leading to institutional suspicion regarding his agenda. He failed to strengthen ties with the military as an institution, instead relying on individuals – a policy that has always backfired.

Without any preparation, a treason case was initiated against Musharraf. Subsequently, Nawaz had to face the dharna. The failure of our foreign policy on both the Afghanistan and India fronts as well as the failure on NAP’s implementation are widely attributed to the civil-military divide. The failure to convict Musharraf or stop his safe exit as well as to get accountability from those managing the dharna seemed to have led to embarrassment and frustration. By not forgetting all these issues, it seemed Nawaz had started to harbour grudges against institutions, including the military. Being already suspicious of his ambitions, the military responded as well.

It is unfortunate that the military remained silent over political blunders and became vocal only when its own interests were threatened. Similarly, Nawaz did not challenge the army on foreign policy or national security but became aggressive on matters in which his own interests were involved.

This has now become Nawaz Sharif’s main challenge. He is badly trapped in the political quagmire. Neither parliament nor the media can save him. Only a miracle – or the involvement of China and Russia – can pull him out of this situation.

Saleem Safi, "Political blunders," The news. 2017-07-09.
Keywords: Political science , Political aspects , Political parties , Political leaders , Political reforms , Foreign policy , Social media , National interest , Government-Pakistan , Panama Papers , Democracy , Corruption , Politics , Baluchistan , NAB , JIT