Shaheen Sehbai could have easily been a better playwright if he focused on churning conspiracy driven soap operas for Geo TV than to come out with his viewpoints which are getting funnier by the day to read. As they say “A successful deal has many fathers while a dud deal is a fatherless child”, Shaheen Sehbai claims to be one of the “initiators” of the Charter of Democracy (it is a successful deal) and now that it is “redundant”, “dead and buried”, Sharif Brothers should wake up and shun their principles! My god! Shaheen Sehbai has lost it completely.
We have time and again talked about Shaheen Sehbai’s Zardari Phobia and also exposed the hypocrisy of PML-N through highlighting the cases of misuse and nepotism in Punjab. We wonder what sort of principles Shaheen Sehbai sees in the Sharif Brothers?
Shaheen Sehbai claims that President Zardari has time and again tricked MQM and ANP. MQM’s Babar Ghouri claims that the only reason MQM is with the PPP is because of the continuous support of President Zardari in solving their issues with the PPP in the province while the ANP can still not thank the PPP more for resolving their key demands of renaming of NWFP, payment of water royalty in arrears and increase in NFC share.
Time and again, Shaheen Sehbai comes up with the theory of Sindh Card being used by the PPP. What is the Sindh Card? Sindh Card is nothing but a fear for the prophets of doom as time and again it claimed to be used by the PPP but never has been. The reality is that PPP wins elections in Sindh because the people of Sindh vote them in!
I personally feel that the biggest fear and crux of the viewpoint by Shaheen Sehbai is the disqualification of a large number of PML-N MPA’s in Punjab due to the fake degrees matter. If more than 25 MPA’s from the PML-N get disqualified and by-elections take place, there is a chance that PML-N may not recover all the seats. That would be a poor reflection of the PML-N which has time and again claimed to be the most popular party of not just Punjab but also Pakistan. In my humble opinion, PPP stands to lose less than the PML-N with the disqualification of MPAs and by elections taking place. Last thing PML-N wants is to lose the province of Punjab to the PPP and would be a matter of shock to the likes of Shaheen Sehbai who just cannot stand to see PPP continuing its stint in power.
The politics of Raiwind and the Mian brothers; Sharifs fear mly intervention if they go all out against Zardari; sticking to principles may cost them Punjab govt; with Zardari on the rampage, will the Army be sucked in?
Monday, June 28, 2010
The News International
By Shaheen Sehbai
WASHINGTON: The Mian brothers of Raiwind are caught in a Catch-22 situation, caught in the midst of their own conflicts of minds and principles.
Of these positions, some are based on their perceived fears of another military intervention, some necessitated by the political compulsion of not allowing Zardari to trample upon them in the Punjab, some caused by their own declarations about politics of principles and some based on compromises they have to make to run their government in the Punjab.
Their dilemma is complex and not an easy one to resolve. If they go all out against Zardari, they think the military camel will again get the chance to put its neck in the political tent, ultimately driving out the genuine residents into a hot desert sun.
If they do not stop Zardari & Co from the massive plundering of state institutions and misuse of political authority, they run the risk of being left out and have to face the genuine criticism of being the friendly opposition, with the PPP running away with everything.
If they push their principles too far, specially on the fake degrees issue, the PML-N gets the biggest hit in the Punjab with the likelihood of the Shahbaz government falling, thus, giving Zardari another golden opportunity to manipulate the situation in his favour and install an interim government or the Governor’s rule for a long politically uncomfortable or even damaging period.
(The example of the PPP tricking the MQM into dissolving the local bodies on the promise of early elections and then walking away from the scene, leaving Altaf Hussain in a similar quandary is too recent to be forgotten.)
If the Mian brothers do not stop Zardari, Babar Awan & Associates from confronting and ultimately subjugating the Supreme Court judges led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, they run the risk of being called spineless cowards who ran their election campaign for the restoration and independence of the judges and capitalised on the issue to the hilt, but when the crunch came, they chickened out to save their government in the Punjab.
It is another matter that because of the directionless and clueless position of the Mian brothers, Zardari & Associates have got the confidence and audacity to go for an all-out public offensive against the judiciary, with Babar Awan thundering and challenging: “How many hundreds of years will you keep on trying us, we will face it.”
His cronies and sidekicks are leaking stories of actions that Zardari may take against the judges, including the withdrawal of the March 17, 2009 Executive Order which restored the judges. Though such a suicidal act may bring the confrontation to a head, it only shows the PPP is no more worried about the consequences of going to all lengths to protect Zardari and his cronies.
This also shows at least the PPP is not worried about any military intervention as privately Zardari and the main PPP stalwarts boast that they have used the Sindh Card in such a way the Army will never dare to touch them again.
Zardari even said so in his Garhi Khuda Bux speech by claiming he already had a win-win formula in place and even if he loses, he will win. That only means the preparation to use the Sindh Card are complete and this blackmail will now be used with more frequency, severity and shamelessness.
Against this emboldened and aggressive PPP, the Mian brothers are caught in a trap of their own making. PML-N insiders say Mian Nawaz Sharif has confined himself into such a cocoon of self-righteousness that he has ignored the pressing needs and absolutely essential political maneuvers that he must have already made to keep his party in power, as well as strengthen it to face the PPP.
For instance, the plight of the 35 or so MPs who crossed over from the PML-Q to join his coalition in the Punjab have been the most ignored lot in the Punjab Assembly and some have even started to trickle out of the coalition though they have nowhere to go.
What the Sharifs should have done, keeping the essential needs of pragmatism and the ground realities in view, is to gather all the PML elements together, in the National Assembly, Senate and the provinces, making suitable adjustments with them as Zardari has done with rivals MQM, JUI and ANP.
Bulk of these Muslim Leaguers were ready to join the Sharifs but Raiwind is stuck with the Charter of Democracy, which for all practical purposes, is dead and buried, thrown into the dustbin by Zardari & Co.
What Mian Nawaz Sharif is not realising is that he and Benazir Bhutto signed the Charter of Democracy with a view to go into the politics of the future but what Zardari, who had absolutely nothing to do with the CoD, has done, is to revert the political pendulum to the 90s. He has embarked on the old politics as if nothing has changed since he was jailed in 1996.
This lack of realisation is now haunting the Sharifs. They committed to the politics of principles and decency but they have an opponent who is not interested. So if they have to survive the onslaught, which is going on from all sides, Raiwind has to decide quickly how this has to be done. So far, it has failed miserably. One hard hitting statement in a month or six-weeks and then withdrawing into a shell is not taking the Sharifs anywhere. Even when Nawaz Sharif makes that statement, his body language is so stiff, confused and lacking confidence, he appears to be doing it without conviction or commitment.
Another key confusion which refuses to go away is the perceived threat in the minds of the Sharifs, or Nawaz Sharif in particular, about the threat of military intervention. The Army has walked away from politics and Zardari has realized and capitalized on this, at least so far. He has taken positions which otherwise would have been difficult but he is now confident he can handle the Army. Nawaz Sharif is not so confident, but why?
The answer to this question is simple. Nawaz thinks he would be the one to lose more if a situation was created in which the Army walks back in. But with this fear in mind, he has stopped even playing the normal role an opposition should play. The massive loot and plunder and the spate of stories of corruption, misuse of authority, wastage of funds etc is all going by default with no one to challenge it effectively either in parliament or on the streets. Press conferences and TV interviews cannot stop this rot and this has not yet been understood by Nawaz Sharif.
The Army-PML-N relations and any misunderstandings if they had, should have been cleared when Shahbaz Sharif and Ch Nisar Ali Khan met the Army chief openly, and secretly, several times. Why has that not happened is a mystery but the Sharifs have to realise that the way Zardari is on the rampage, he will ultimately suck the Army in, whether the Sharifs like it or not. So why not check Zardari politically before he makes it impossible and the only way then left is through an outside intervention.
Zardari, on the other hand, has played his cards like a shrewd master. He attacks and abuses his partners (MQM, JUI, ANP) publicly, with his cronies even insulting them, but then he throws crumbs and gets them back on board. The prime minister is used as a convenient trouble-shooter.
On the contrary, if Nawaz had played his cards well and got all the PML people together, he would be in a perfectly easy position to topple the Gilani government in the NA in a simple numbers game, all through a democratic and political process. Finding a face-saving excuse to get the PML-Q MNAs, senators and MPs should not have been a problem, instead it would have thrown the Zardari camp into disarray. But even political moves have been missing and that has left the field open for Zardari to exploit.
The latest in the Zardari camp is to attack the judges, on the one hand, threatening to withdraw their Executive order and throw them on the street by Rehman Malik’s executive power, while on the other to secretly encourage General Musharraf to seriously come back and put together the remnants of the PML-Q under his wings and then cooperate with the PPP against Raiwind. The presidency thinks Musharraf’s return would help the PPP and damage the Sharifs who are stuck on his trial and are refusing to move on and do what is needed to preserve their political assets and check the PPP onslaught.
The answer to all this PML-N confusion and dilemma is for Nawaz Sharif to come out of his cocoon, stop worrying about the Army intervention, stand strongly behind the judges and the judiciary, a free media and confront the government by political moves and hard criticism where needed.
The political moves must include forgetting the Charter of Democracy for the moment as it is already irrelevant in the present context, throw the PPP out of his coalition in the Punjab by getting the PML-Q people back through a face-saving formula, giving them importance and attracting others, re-arranging the decks in the NA by forming alliances and mending fences with MQM, ANP and JUI and doing the political act of throwing out the PPP through the democratic process.
It is hard for me to demand that the Charter of Democracy should be buried, as I am one of its initiators, but when signatories do not adhere to the agreements, it becomes redundant by itself. The Sharif brothers must wake up before Zardari and Associates who are claiming that 2013 will the year the PPP will sweep the Punjab, becomes a reality.