Whoever gave them this idea?
Quite a march, from one Punjab House to another, more a joke than anything to be taken seriously. I heard Zaeem Qadri saying this is not a million march, this is a ten million march. When people take leave of their senses, what is to be said?
If they thought that this would be some kind of a huge affair, the masses pouring out in their tens of thousands to show their great love for the deposed prime minister, no miscalculation could have been greater. On a normal working day there is a greater rush on Murree Road than the crowds the PML-N was able to gather for Nawaz Sharif’s rally.
The motorway journey to Lahore would have been much better. It would have been easier for local PML-N figures to bring halfway decent crowds to the various interchanges where Nawaz Sharif could have addressed them. Once in Lahore there would have been ample room to propagate the myth that if Nawaz Sharif had come on the GT Road the whole of Punjab would have risen and the province would have been paralysed.
It is never wise to tempt the furies and this Nawaz Sharif has done and the result is there for all to see. The road show hasn’t gone off as expected. Fiasco might be too strong a word but it comes close to that.
Our friend Tehmina Durrani – begum to Shahbaz Sharif – was right on the mark when she tweeted that Nawaz Sharif should fire his advisers who had advised him to take to the GT Road. She also said, and this the Nawaz Sharif branch of the family would find cutting, that a devoted and sincere brother like Shahbaz Sharif should not be put to the test—meaning thereby that as chief minister of Punjab he had a responsibility to maintain order and here Nawaz Sharif was up to something which was straining the resources of the Punjab government.
What kind of a protest rally is this in which federal and provincial resources are being used to make it a success? Shops forcibly closed, certificates of good behaviour taken from shopkeepers en route, extensive security precautions, provision of jammers, etc. But all to no avail because the main thing did not happen, the crowds didn’t pour out the way these strategists were expecting.
Sometimes it is best to keep things hidden, behind a veil or purdah. Appearances are kept and honour is preserved. By undertaking this ill-conceived adventure Nawaz Sharif has done nothing so much as to expose himself. The whole thing is also turning into a farce. Last I switched on the TV Nawaz Sharif seemed to be travelling at a much faster pace towards Jhelum, leaving much of his accompanying caravan behind. And I don’t want to keep repeating this but the crowds on the way are not what the N League was dreaming of.
Here’s a man who is afraid to get out of his car and is talking revolution. There are security concerns of course but then talking defiant and brave from behind bullet proof glass does look a bit odd. If security was such an overwhelming concern that should have been all the more reason to take the safer and better route via the motorway. And it would have been easier on his supporters.
This affair, for affair it is turning out to be, reminds me of the time when Javed Hashmi came out of jail in Gen Musharraf’s time and thinking he had attained the status of political hero he travelled on the GT Road from Lahore to Islamabad. A limper affair would be hard to imagine. By the time he arrived in Islamabad half his confidence had evaporated. On the TV screen I had a glimpse of Nawaz Sharif as he was passing through Sohawa. There was an attempt of a smile on his face and he didn’t look too happy. If this was a show of strength, what would a display of weakness look like?
I think Nawaz Sharif has cut the ground from under his feet and the next stop is going to be the NAB references against him and his family. If this march was meant to stave off this eventuality then I think the verdict would be that it will miserably fail. No one is likely to be impressed much less cowed by this display of political power. The references will be filed and Nawaz Sharif and his children, his son-in-law and his samadhi, Ishaq Dar, will all have to go through this ordeal.
If sense had prevailed Nawaz Sharif would have left for Lahore the day his dismissal was announced. That would have been the dignified thing to do and it would have brought him greater political kudos. But going off to Murree and then coming up and taking up residence in the Punjab House, Islamabad, first deciding to go down to Lahore via the motorway and then suddenly deciding to go down the GT Road no doubt because the circle close to him had fed him the impression that with people impatient to see him this was too good an opportunity to miss. As the Urdu phrase has it, when curtains come down on your senses you lose touch with reality.
Through the Panama scandal the entire nation has been educated in the financial practices of the ruling family – their offshore accounts, overseas properties, the money-laundering as detailed in Ishaq Dar’s confessional statement before NAB, the false bank accounts in the names of the Qazi family and then the pathetic attempts at a cover-up in the form of the Qatari letters. Still Nawaz Sharif insists that he can hold his head high because there is no corruption charge against him.
Offshore accounts are set up because of the need to hide ill-gotten wealth. This is corruption. Money-laundering is not only corruption it is something worse especially if you happen to be the prime minister of your country. And here with a straight face and not a trace of embarrassment they say that no stain of corruption defiles their clean clothes. You have to admire their chutzpah. Lesser men would wilt under such charges, not knowing what to say. But here they are not so much protesting innocence as hurling defiance.
I am forgetting one thing. In which country of the world does a government go about closing a major artery – in this case the Grand Trunk Road—for three days on end because a former prime minister has decided to show his importance and his defiance of a decision of the country’s Supreme Court?
I was just listening to Nawaz Sharif addressing the assembled crowd in Dina. He asked the people to join him in building a New Pakistan. He has been in and around power for the last 35 years and he couldn’t build a new country in this period and he wants everyone to believe that this miracle will come about now should he be returned to power. In Pakistan everyone gets away with a lot of tall claims as politicians and military rulers apparently don’t have too high a regard for the intelligence of common folk. And everyone in Pakistan talks in the future tense, about the wonders to be performed in the days ahead, never about what actually they achieved when they had the opportunity to do something.