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Sharifs unveil ‘Punjab Card’ to prolong zero-sum game – by Saeed Minhas

ISLAMABAD: With the Sharifs unveiling their ‘Punjab Card’, Maulana Diesel trying to get even with the government, ‘Bhai logs’ of Karachi going into a pensive mood and nationalists getting a hint coupled with the success of the Kiyani-Qureshi-led strategic dialogues in the US, an under-siege government is likely to find more bumpy roads ahead.

Is it a credit-game or a zero-sum game? No matter how we look at it, Law Minister Barber Awan to some extent, and a non-elected party chief in the shape of Nawaz Sharif to quite a major extent, has played a Brutus by stalling the process that would have likely established the democratic institutions and weakened the forces of centralisation.

A nine-month long sojourn for parliamentary supremacy has ended in a zero-sum game, as PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif seems to have committed yet another political blunder by not only digressing from the Charter of Democracy and playing his ‘Punjab Card’, but also by siding with the forces of the status-quo and his political mentors on Thursday. If the smiles of Garrison-town-boy Chaudhry Nisar and the shyness of Mian Sahib was something to notice, then the movements of the power-sniffing ‘bhai logs’ and Maulanas’ were also worth noticing.

An unusual session of the National Assembly and then the Senate was called to get things moving away from a quasi-presidential system to a pretty much parliamentary system as envisaged by the forefathers of the 1973 constitution. All these hopes were given a jolt by none other than the man who very recently was claiming to have learned his lessons from history and was vowing to be willing to sacrifice his life to uphold democratic traditions.

What crossed his mind or what triggered this change of heart remained an omni-point of discussions amongst all parliamentarians.

Although, PPP legislators were all smiles knowing that the president would continue to hold on to his powers, but pretending to convey the message that “Mian Sahib is as ‘political’ as he was throughout the 80s and 90s”. Leaguers, however, avoided hitting the floor of the House or the corridors, knowing well that they won’t have any answers to the queries of inquisitive media corps.

Had it been the issue of not keeping him in the loop over the Pak-US strategic dialogue, then Mian Sahib should have mentioned it through his legally elected representatives in the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms or throughout the past nine months, but he did not. As an analyst put it, Mian Sahib had a wishful thinking that the reforms committee would come to a deadlock and that he would then lead this stalemate to demand a mid-term elections assuming that he is at the zenith of his popularity. But after the unforced error committed by his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif and ultimate rebuke from the ‘Big Boss’, he seems to have realised that he is not in the good books of the Americans or the Khakis, therefore, the best way is to stall the process.

But as our senator-friend from the party of ‘Bhai logs’ raised the query that can a single party hijack the whole national agenda? He said that if so, he has opened a ‘Pandora’s box’ by giving an open invitation to all national and even linguistic parties to seek the division of Punjab into smaller units to end this monopoly game. He said that ‘Bhai logs’ had been wondering all along if the Sharifs had really changed and would let Asif Zardari of all people, take credit for amending the constitution.

If it was a case of appointment of judges, then his demand to include a retired judge in the judicial commission was acceded to the very next day by the reforms committee, then why is he still complaining, asked a political observer.

To put forward another of his lame excuses, Mian Sahib mentioned the differences with the Awami National Party over renaming NWFP. But when his kitchen-cabinet was asked about the same issue, they all sounded quite hopeful that after meeting with the ANP leaders, the issue would be resolved amicably. Why has Mian Sahib taken all this burden of proving that he belongs to the same old hands, which nurtured him in politis and then booted him out of it, remained on every legislators’ mind.

‘Barber Awan’, who has been on a tailor-made medical leave just like he was on leave when the restoration of judges issue surfaced, wanted to take credit by making a premature announcement about the 18th amendment. It was obvious that he was not considered very close to the presidential camp and was hoping that without even attending a majority of the 60 odd meetings of the reforms committee, he would take the credit by leaking the final outcome. Although it antagonised Raza Rabbani and many other members of the committee, but what dumbfounded them all was the faux pas of the Sharifs.

Source: Daily Times