By Dr. Haider Mehdi

 “But Salvo (my son). If wicked people are dragging us into war and stealing our resources, how can there be grades of guilt among them?  Surely each one is as evil as the next, since all are complicit in the same act?” John LaCarre, The Mission Song

There is a common saying in our Eastern culture, wise and profound as it is, “subh ka bhoola sham ko ghar a ja’e to usay bhoola na kaihna chahiye” (if one leaves home in the morning and returns in the evening, such a person cannot be called lost). In other words, “the Prodigal deserves no reproach after his/her return” or “it is not lost that comes at last.” Fair enough. 

But what do you say of a person of national political eminence who went into self-exile for years to save his neck and wealth and left the nation at the mercy of a brutal and impulsive military dictator as the state and ruling junta became absolutely synonymous with corruption, political mismanagement, unilateral anti-nationalist decision-making, profoundly defaulted foreign policy, oppression and incompetence?  Today’s Pakistan of drone attacks, suicide bombings and economic-social-political near-collapse is the result of the said abandonment of the country to a devil’s wrath. 

Mian Nawaz Sharif, two-time Prime Minister, deserted the nation at a time of national crisis only to return after years of virtual political absence and non-substantive political performance. Since his return to the Zardari-Gilani democratic Pakistan, Mian Sahib has been rhetorically struggling to save the sham democracy in this country.  A majority of common Pakistanis have come to believe that Mian Nawaz Sharif is, in fact, a cohort of and in cohabitation and fraternity with the Zardari regime – waiting for a third-time shot at the Prime Ministership. 

So what do you make of Mian Nawaz Sharif now?  Is he a “Bhoola Huwa” coming home at last? Was it “Youm-e-takbeer” of May 28th that made him the political Pakistani Tiger that he was supposed to be?  Or is he, in fact, a paper Tiger, as he has been for a long time in due consideration of his political discourse and engagements in the post-Musharraf’s national destructive era?

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Ironically, it has taken Nawaz Sharif three long years to come to realize that it is about time to return home and abandon national desertion.  Is he serious about a political comeback that might rock the incumbent political establishment or is it once again simply the familiar Mian Sahib’s oratory to gain time for a personalized political agenda in the post-Zardari’s tenure — a behind-the-scenes secret undertaking “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”?                                                                                                  

In the fiery and rhetorically loaded speech commemorating “Youm-e-takbeer” on May 28th in Lahore, Mian Nawaz Sharif called for a political revolution in Pakistan, seeking to transform the national political culture, demanding an end to the politics of status quo in the country and went as far as to put the Zardari-Gilani regime on notice that he will personally lead a people’s revolutionary movement to bring an end to political mismanagement, corruption, oppression, and fast-approaching social-political abyss. 

However, the problem is that empty rhetoric, fiery speeches, passionate promises and sentimental appeals do not offer real resolutions to national problematics.  Actions do. So the question here is: Is Nawaz Sharif once again, invoking an illusion, a perception of a Pakistani Tiger about to take on the powers-that-be to assure a political change that will be radical, nationalistic, selfless, and promises to be fundamental and intrinsic in nature? Only Nawaz Sharif’s political actions and political conduct can offer realistic insights into his intensions. 

In the context of Pakistan’s nationalist democratic objectives and aspirations, let us evaluate Nawaz Sharif’s political behavior and tactical strategic engagement with Pakistani political discourse in the so-called democratic Pakistan in the post-Musharraf period. 

Nawaz Sharif should have vehemently opposed the onset of an NRO-promoted political leadership in the country, but he did not.  Nawaz Sharif should have demanded strict censorship of the political candidates in national and provincial legislative assemblies, but he did not.  Considering the level of incompetence, corruption and political mismanagement of national affairs, Nawaz Sharif should have demanded mid-term national elections, but he did not.  Nawaz Sharif should have uncompromisingly demanded an end to the PPP government’s US-centric foreign policy, but he did not.  Nawaz Sharif should have pressed the government for a total and unconditional end to drone attacks within Pakistan’s territory, but he has not.  Nawaz Sharif should have openly and severely criticized the incumbent PPP government’s policy in regards to the presence of American mercenaries and combat troops in Pakistan, but he has not. Nawaz Sharif should have demanded a political dialogue and a purely political solution to the so-called war on terror, but he has not.  Nawaz Sharif should have opposed the IMF’s fiscal policies towards Pakistan, but he has not.

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The list of what Nawaz Sharif should have done and has not done is lengthy and dismal.  On a personal note, it needs to be mentioned here that Nawaz Sharif should not have moved his family to London – as a visible indication of personal faith in Pakistan and its destiny – but he has. As a token of respect, unity and oneness with the deprived people of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif should have received medical treatment in his own country, but he preferred to get it in London.  Is Mian Nawaz Sharif a Pakistani Tiger or a Paper Tiger?

In order to mobilize people nation-wide and instigate a revolutionary popular uprising and a democratic movement to enact a fundamental ‘change” in Pakistan’s political culture and to put an end to decades-old politics of status quo, a lot more challenging political discourse is needed. Fiery speeches and pure rhetoric will not suffice.  Is Nawaz Sharif personally, emotionally, intellectually, and politically prepared to accept such a challenge? 

Let us start with the fundamentals first: Will Nawaz Sharif be emotionally prepared to put aside his personal ambitions of a national leadership and politically join with other diverse and varied forces to bring about a non-status quo radical change in the rules of political engagement in Pakistan?  Will Nawaz Sharif be prepared to emotionally and politically accept a consensus candidate of “change” in national leadership and participate in coordinating a political movement to eliminate the present political leadership and political culture in the country?  For instance, given the changing political ground realities in Pakistan and Imran Khan’s glowing public endorsement as a national leader of change and political renaissance, will Nawaz Sharif accept Tehrik-e-Insaaf’s chairperson as a viable candidate to lead a revolutionary movement in the country and support Imran Khan’s political platform?  Will Nawaz Sharif philosophically and ideologically accept a Left-Centrist economic planning approach in the country abandoning his lifelong flirtation with a purely Rightist capitalistic doctrine of economic planning?  Will Nawaz Sharif be willing to abandon the imperial Riawind estate and espouse a lifestyle reserved for dedicated national leaders to be in harmony and oneness with the masses to establish personal credibility and leadership integrity devoid of personal interests and egocentric agendas?  Will Nawaz Sharif tell Obama and Cameron that the so-called war on terror is a hoax and it is definitely not Pakistan’s war?  Will Nawaz Sharif make it absolutely clear to the American president that the next drone that flies into Pakistan’s airspace will be shot down? Will Nawaz Sharif explain to Nato leadership that passage of their troop’s supplies through Pakistan will be subject to Pakistan’s conditional overview, policy restrictions and independent decision-making in the context of its national interests and priorities? 

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I ask Mian Nawaz Sharif a simple question:  “If wicked people are dragging us into war and steal our resources…” and notwithstanding your fiery revolutionary speech of “Youm-e-takbeer,” what are you going to do about it – in actuality, in political action, in absolute deeds? 

Are you, Mian Nawaz Sharif, coming home…lost …since God knows when?