The worst enemy of the PML-N is the PML-N itself. The Sharif brothers seem to have been programmed to maintain a self-destructive course. The modern-day autocrats never realize this and the people coalescing around them would certainly not warn them for their own good reasons.
There are several misguided missiles in the PML-N ranks. And there are suicide bombers who implode only to hurt their own party.
Take the high treason case against Pervez Musharraf for example. Ideally, it would have been a massive selling point for the PML-N. Trying a former dictator would spike the popularity of the party. It would enhance the stature of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as a great statesman. Instead of the satirical label of Man of Steel, he might have been called the Iron Man. None of that happened.
[quote]”In democracy, you cannot rule with a baton”[/quote]
Political analyst Ahmed Bilal Mehboob says the PML-N does not believe in engaging political opponents or other stakeholders. “In democracy, you cannot rule with a baton. You talk, engage people, and make compromises. There is a lot of give and take.”
He said the major reason why the People’s Party government managed to complete its five-year term was because it kept all the stakeholders engaged.
What is the state of democracy in 2014? Politically, the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif does not face any imminent danger. In the 2013 general elections, the former king’s party was wiped out. Several remnants of former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf took refuge in the PML-N. It baffled old companions of Nawaz Sharif, who had believed there was no place for friends of the dictator in their party. Mr Sharif had backtracked from his so-called principles.
The People’s Party and the Tehrik-e-Insaf believed they had their mandate stolen in the last general elections. They alleged massive rigging. But regardless of their objections and apprehensions, they accepted the results because they didn’t want to derail democracy.
The retirement of Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in November, and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in December, strengthened the prime minister. Ostensibly, he does not have any more stones in his shoe.
But “the honeymoon period is over”, says Ahmed Bilal Mehboob. “Inflation poses a serious challenge to the government. It has to present a budget in June. The ground is perfect for street agitation.” He said the local government elections, if held in 2014, would be yet another test case – “midterm elections” of sorts, to judge the popularity of the ruling PML-N and its allies.
He said the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and presidential elections in Kabul might have a spillover impact on Pakistan that has already faced an influx of refugees.
Street agitation has already started with Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri taking the lead. Opinions are divided. People are still debating whether Pakistan’s biggest problem is inflation or terrorism. The PML-N is blaming the recent state of economy on the previous PPP government.
“If Mian Sahib does not get his act together, 2014 would be the last year of his government,” said Sheikh Rashid, the president of his own Awami Muslim League. “I don’t foresee another military intervention, but the possibility cannot be ruled out in Pakistan.”
When the army intervened in 1999, Nawaz Sharif was enjoying what he called a “heavy mandate”. A lot has changed since then. The judiciary is much more powerful and independent. Gen Kayani was given the credit for de-politicizing army. The new chain of command is likely to follow a similar course.
The People’s Party government must be praised for strengthening parliamentary practices. The prime ministers participated in almost every session. The ministers were always available to answer questions.
Since the PML-N came to power, these practices have been neglected. It took very long to form standing committees. The prime minister rarely graces the parliament with his presence. The ministers are often missing.
“Prime Minister Sharif has never considered it important to participate in parliamentary proceedings,” said Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, who also monitors the proceedings of the parliament. “Same is the case with his younger brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.”
The PML-N does not realize how quickly it can make enemies, he said. It does not believe in engaging its political opponents, and has ended up with a hostile opposition.
The previous tenure of the PML-N was marred by confrontation with the armed forces and the judiciary. It could not sustain the confrontation. The Sharif family had to wait for more than 13 years to return to power.
Weeks ago, former president Asif Zardari and former prime minister Chaudhry Shujaat said Nawaz Sharif had a steel rod in his neck.
Arrogance has cost the Sharifs dearly in the past. But old habits die hard.
Shahzad Raza is a journalist based in Islamabad. Follow him on Twitter @shahzadrez
Of course, old habit don’t die hard, do they? But one change is plausible in our local folklore hero. (Because, originally, I am from Lahore, so I can call him local hero), Lately, our PM is thinking a lot. First, he is wearing a needless hat of foreign minister. This he shares with his younger brother also who is frequent visitor to Turkey and interacts with them continuously after he gets some break with the free distribution of laptop to our youth. This morning, I heard him on TV interacting with a Chinese delegation. Barely, I could understand in his Lahori accent what he was saying. But it seems like he was communicating in English. I believe communicating in English is perhaps the hallmark of a Pakistani politician who wants to impress us. Of course, it started with Bhutto from the UN, and we are still paying for this speech. Now, his friends in Turkey, few of them, had resigned or forced to resign for corruption. Can he do the same thing, or did we wipe out all the corruption here. His choice of finance minister is a totally nincompoop choice. The man does not know the basis of either economics or finance. He may be a good accountant and a dependable relative who would not be a turncoat, can add numbers but that skill has no meaning here. In more civilized countries, they send bank robbers behind the bars for many many years, not re-reward them with prized and chum posts, again and again. Simple things, this unfortunate country is back in the solid grips of all kinds of Choudharis, Warrach, Khans, Tummans, and Legharis, and Zardaris and innumerable daughter and sons who started playing with the fortune of the hapless millions on their twitter accounts. The politics of influence and relative based diarchy is solidly entrenched. When this was pointed out by a British politician recently, the whole population started crying against him. Did you see the smiling picture of Zardari today after he went to the Supreme Court waiving a victory sign. He was simply thumping his nose at the nation? You couldn’t do a darn thing against me. I am back to square one.