No… he will not. That is the simple answer.
Yes, he could be. Only IF…
Let me attempt to explain my perspective on the subject in the context of present-day Pakistan and the political realities that are behind the massive intensity of a “tsunami” that is on its way and bound to hit the political landscape of this country with a yet to be imagined magnitude. Revolutionary change is going to be the future history of Pakistan – there is no alternative other than a massive transformation of political culture in this nation. Make fundamental changes or parish – that is the writing on the wall for all political forces and their respective leaderships at this point in time.
Hence, Mian Nawaz Sharif’s political destiny is at a crossroads (like everyone else’s). Understanding the definition of “IF” and the probability of its execution is the most crucial factor in Nawaz Sharif’s political lifeline in tomorrow’s democratic Pakistan.
Let us start with some basics: Today’s Pakistan is a poor country (though having prospects of being an economic giant) with a massively deprived population. The leadership of such a nation cannot legitimately or morally sustain political credibility and public trust if it lives in palaces, enjoys colonial times lifestyles, and thrives in luxury and affluence that is beyond the imagination of its common citizens. As of now, nearly all Pakistani political leadership delights itself in the splendor of luminous elegance and self-indulgence, and the ruling class has timelessly maintained protocols reminiscent of a monarch’s era. Understandably, the ruling elite’s lifestyle enrages common citizens – in fact, present-day Pakistan is a classic example of a divided society of “haves” and “have nots” – the entire ruling elite and its leadership are living in an entirely different world of a materially prosperous existence while the majority of people struggle on a daily basis to marginally survive.
Let us consider, for deliberative purposes, Mian Nawaz Sharif’s two basic indicators of his lifetime achievements: his entrepreneurial and political profiles. Indeed (no questions about it) Nawaz Sharif is a brilliant business entrepreneur “par excellence”. He has an enterprising history of success in several business projects inside and outside the country. Nawaz Sharif has unquestionably established himself as an icon in the field of Pakistan’s industry and trade. His leadership in business circles is, indeed, outstanding and so are his achievements in setting up his family business conglomerate.
Politically, Mian Nawaz Sharif is a “Right Wing” corporate-affiliated entrepreneur who is ideologically and strategically committed to ultra-rightist prescriptions of economic policy- planning for the nation. This is understandable because it has been the key to Mian Nawaz Sharif’s entrepreneurial success. As such, the PML-N Quaid is compulsively (by life experience and a particular mindset) attached to a philosophical political view that the nation’s advancement and progress is intrinsically linked to the fundamentals of corporate capitalism and its economic policies. However, rationally-speaking this ideological perspective makes Mian Nawaz Sharif an ardent supporter of political and economic “status quo” in the country.
Hence, the question that begs urgent attention and political response is: Can the continuation of the economic-political “status quo” serve the needs of the Pakistani people in tomorrow’s Pakistan? Another issue linked to the political-economic status quo is the vital connection between political power and economic control – whoever controls political power controls economic power as well.
Public perceptions on the matter is that Pakistan’s ruling elite has so far used political power to gain massive economic benefits, mostly through illegal means, for their vested interests. In fact, the common citizens of Pakistan are absolutely convinced that the ruling elite has enriched themselves at the expense of the public. They hold the ruling class responsible for the massive corruption, mismanagement and fall of Pakistan into a political-economic abyss. They know that the widening chasm of socio-economic disparity in the nation is caused by the ruling class’s insatiable lust for vested economic interests and the misuse of political power for this purpose.
The point is that public perceptions, no matter how inaccurate, are in fact the visible and accepted face of reality. People in Pakistan today want change. They want social economic parity. They wish for social justice. They demand fairness. They want a leadership that serves them, not governs them. They want an end to the political and economic status quo. They aspire for a peoples-rooted participatory democracy and a share in political decision-making.
History tells us a nation’s destiny is made by historical acts of superb human determination, heroic personal sacrifices by its leaders and a commitment to selfless service to people’s welfare. So, can Mian Nawaz Sharif embrace political sainthood? Can he be the political Qalandar to respond to the peoples’ demands, shun worldly possessions and addictions, and make personal sacrifices worthy of a legendary leader? Can he, for example, turn his massive Raiwind Estate into a national university as a token of solidarity with common Pakistanis (anyway why should a leader in an impoverished nation live like an Emperor)? Those are the “IFs” that are vital for the PML-N leader’s future political fate in Pakistan.
It should be noted that Mian Nawaz Sharif’s political past is tainted with historical errors of his era (like all others in politics). Consequently, a public trust deficit exists at several levels of society in the context of his political image and leadership. In the next general elections, the main threat to Nawaz Sharif’s national political leadership will come from his arch rival, Imran Khan.
Khan, on the other hand, does not suffer from any kind of public trust deficit. Imran Khan’s “doctrine of change” (which he terms “tsunami”) is not corporate-based; his message of change is anti-status quo and fundamentally a revolutionary transformation in political management and political culture. He does not have to make heroic sacrifices; he is already a national hero. Khan has excelled on the cricket field where Nawaz Sharif has failed convincingly as a player and metaphorically as a political actor (he’s accused of playing the game of politics by manipulations). Imran Khan has already established irrevocable national credentials in public service by virtue of his nonprofit Shaukat Khanum Hospital and Namal University in Mianwali. Imran Khan is supported by the country’s youth who are going to be the bearers of impending political change. And on top of that, timely winds are blowing (for Imran Khan) as revolutionary political transformations take over the entire Islamic world.
Historically, the context of specific time and age in politics is of vital importance. Today’s Pakistan is in a whirlpool of immense political change. Indeed, it would be wrong to judge Nawaz Sharif’s leadership unfairly – but, it is just the irony of time. There are too many “ifs” and “buts” associated with traditional political leadership these days in contemporary Pakistan.
And that explains why Mian Nawaz Sharif will face tough going for a top leadership slot in the forthcoming national elections!
Traditional political leadership is out of the loop of our times!!