By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
Nawaz Sharif came into limelight during Gen Ziaul Haq tenure. He was spotted by the then Governor Punjab Lt Gen Jilani and on his recommendation made the chief minister Punjab. His name figures out in the Mehrangate scandal in which IJI was hatched to prevent PPP from returning to power in 1990 elections. He was elected prime minister in 1990, but he was booted out prematurely by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1994 by using the axe of Article 58-2b, handed over to him by Gen Zia. Next time when he won a landslide victory in February 1997 elections mainly because of poor performance of the PPP in its two tenures, he was shown the door by the military under Gen Musharraf in October 1999.
Performance of PML-N in its second stint was relatively better and it was also credited for making Pakistan a nuclear power. Had he been allowed full tenure, he could have possibly taken Pakistan out of the woods. After his unceremonious ouster, he was tried under hijacking and terrorism acts and awarded life sentence. His party splintered and part of it reappeared in the shape of PML-Q under opportunist Chaudhri brothers who swore their wholehearted loyalty to the military dictator. Steps were taken to emasculate the business edifice of Sharif’s family and to possibly convert Nawaz’s life sentence into death sentence. King Saud came to Nawaz’s rescue and he was pardoned and allowed to go in exile for ten years.
Nawaz’s sole obsession during his period of exile was how to keep the Army out of corridors of power and to ensure rule by politicians only. This mania forced him to mend fences with his archrival Benazir Bhutto and to sign Charter of Democracy (CoD). The CoD’s hidden design mutually agreed to by the two exiled leaders signed in May 2007 in London was to rule in rotation for five years each and to keep the Army out by making it weak and subservient. While he was serious in bringing wholesome changes, BB was not. Hardly had the ink dried on this agreement when Benazir signed a secret deal with Musharraf in Dubai in July 2007. The two agreed to share power for five years. In fact she had been in contact with him since January 2007 and Condoleezza Rice was actively involved. Although CoD was blown to pieces, gullible Nawaz remained infatuated with it solely because of the venom he carried for Musharraf and the Army.
Miffed by Benazr’s wheeling and dealing with Musharraf, APDM under Nawaz was formed and it was decided to boycott the elections. Nawaz again got deceived by Benazir and he let his party to take part in elections thus leaving Jamaat-e-Islami, Tehrik-e-Insaf and nationalist parties of Balochistan in a lurch. He didn’t get out of the stupor of CoD even when Zardari let Musharraf off the hook and backtracked from his commitment given in March 2008 to restore sacked judges. He came to senses only when he and Shahbaz were disqualified by Election Commission, PML-N Ministry in Punjab was dismissed and governor rule imposed. However, he once again went into a trance once Punjab government was restored.
Nawaz Sharif and his henchmen have been relentlessly playing the military card naively thinking that Gen Musharraf’s culture is still in existence. The shoddy treatment meted out by Gen Musharraf and his team to Nawaz and his family has got so transfixed in his mind that he failed to notice the paradigm shift in the thinking and behavior of the top brass of the Army under the leadership of Gen Kayani. While the former had overthrown a heavy-mandate democratic regime on flimsy grounds and given raw deal to the Sharif family, Gen Kayani at the very outset withdrew all military officers serving in civil departments and debarred Army institutions from playing any role in 2008 elections. He never interfered with the working of other institutions and made objections only when national security interests came under threat.
Desperate to regain his political stature and once again win a landslide victory in next elections, Nawaz has been making using of different ploys to become popular. Military bashing is one of the ploys he relishes to employ. He recalls the movement against Field Marshal Ayub Khan in late 1960s, MRD movement against Gen Ziaul Haq and the lawyer’s movement against Gen Pervez Musharraf, but fails to understand that the three had usurped power but Kayani has not. Nawaz is adept in getting on the wrong side of the army chiefs and has suffered the consequences. He had frosty relations with Gen Mirza Beg, Gen Asif Nawaz, Gen Waheed Kakar, Gen Jahangir Karamat and Gen Musharraf. True to his track record, he has tried his best to antagonize Gen Kayani. This was evident from the hostile posture of the PML-N leaders in the aftermath of 2 May incident, wanting the heads of the COAS and DG ISI to be rolled. They disfavored their extensions in service.
Gen Kayani has been repeatedly coaxed, coerced and provoked to overthrow the discredited regime which is the product of US devised NRO and enjoys marginal majority in National Assembly. He has been ridiculed and belittled for his passivity and reminded that his predecessors had toppled the sitting governments on far less grave charges. He has also withstood the pressure of the public groaning under the weight of poverty, price hike and unemployment, lack of justice, load shedding and gas shedding. They anxiously and expectantly look toward him to rid the nation of the termites. Despite sustained campaign by vested interests both inside and outside the country, Kayani has maintained his cool and composure. He is letting the politicians to sort out the mess they have created. Having seen the fate of military rulers how they were initially eulogized and then demonized, he is giving full chance to the democracy lovers to enjoy the fruits of democracy to their hearts desire.
The Army under him besides maintaining operational readiness and minimum nuclear deterrence to ward off external threats has dealt with internal threats and natural calamities effectively. Given the political stagnancy and depressing state of economy coupled with string of internal and external conspiracies, but for the Army and higher judiciary – the two institutions that are still strong and vibrant and delivering – Pakistan would by now have become a failed state. As long as the armed forces remain strong and united and the judiciary continues to function independently, no harm can befall upon integrity of Pakistan.
I had the honor of attending Yaum-e-Shuhada held on the evening of 30 April to pay tributes to valiant men in uniform who sacrificed their lives for the defence of the motherland. The event was meticulously planned and superbly conducted by the ISPR. The next of kin of the Shuhada were given ovation they deserved. It was heart-rending as well as heart-warming to hear the father and brother of a Baloch officer Capt Safar Khan, wife of a Sindhi Sepoy Ghulam Murtaza, son of a Balti Havildar Hinayar, and daughter of Subedar Abdul Khaliq expressing their grief over the loss of dear ones but at the same time conveying their emotional attachment for Pakistan. Seeing their unflinching patriotism and resolve, it must have embarrassed many media persons sitting beside me who have been portraying a gloomy picture about societal divisions.
Gen Kayani in his short address, vowed to support democracy but also conveyed some pertinent points. He was right in saying that national security could only be strengthened by ensuring welfare, happiness and increased dignity of the people and establishment of a balanced society where everyone could get justice. He is correct in saying that creating misgivings and doubts about ideology of Pakistan would gladden the hearts of Pakistan’s adversaries, but would weaken the country. He made a mention about motivated vilification campaign in the aftermath of 2 May incident despite the sacrifices made by Pakistanis. He reminded the US to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty, respect and pride.