Dr. Ghayur Ayub
The illusory highway leading to Constitution Avenue is jam-packed with vehicles painted with; NRO, NAB; Corruption; 18th Amendment; Petitions; Law & Order; Target Killings; Floods; Terrorism; Poor governance; Change of government; Mistrust among allies etc. Free media is filling up each vehicle with gas according to their rating points. Looking like dots from a height, they are moving in one direction; some slow, some fast, and some in between. Let me pick a few dots from past and present and connect them with regards to Nawaz Sharif’s politics.
Dot one; it was in mid-1990 that Shehbaz Sharif rang me from London asking me to visit his father who was admitted to PIMS with a heart problem. He sounded worried. A few days earlier, the elder Mian Sahib had been arrested by Rehman Malik in dubious circumstances. Immediately after, Ch Nisar also rang and asked me to see him in the hospital. He also sounded apprehensive which was unusual as he always kept calm in stressful situations. I rushed to the hospital and saw Ch Nisar in the corridor. We went to my office which was nearby. After settling down, he told me what I already knew from Shehbaz Sharif. I picked up the phone and called Dr. Nasir, the cardiologist. He was already in ICU. I left Ch Nisar in the office and walked through the corridor full of police.
In ICU, I met Dr Nasir. He took me to room number 10. Mian Sahib had an oxygen mask covering his pale and tired face. He looked weak and his hands were shaking. Dr. Nasir introduced me to him. I told him Shehbaz Sharif rang from London and was worried about his health. In a weak voice he told me to tell him not to worry and that God was looking after him. After staying for a while, we returned to my office. Dr Nasir updated Ch Nisar that Mian Sahib’s condition was serious but not critical and he needed complete rest at hospital. From there, we went to my home and rang Shehbaz Sharif and appraised him of the situation.
The next day, I was told by a friend in FIA that Rehman Malik was furious as to why I was allowed to see Mian Sahib and, still later, he objected to Dr Nasir being the treating cardiologist. He asked for a second opinion of specialists from Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology. His wish was granted but to his disappointment, the report from them was no different than the one written by Dr Nasir. Pressure developed and Mian Sahib was released against Rehman Malik’s wishes. His callous action deeply hurt the Sharif brothers.
Dot two; on May, 10, 2006, a meeting took place at the International Secretariat of PML-N, Duke Street, London to give final touches to the draft document of the CoD. The key leaders of the party were present. When it came to discussing the venue for the signing ceremony, some objected to having it at Rehman Malik’s residence. They still remembered his harsh treatment of late Main Sahib and suggested a neutral territory. A few, like Ch Nisar did not agree with them. They argued that the venue should not become an obstruction to the understanding which had developed between Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto since 2004. The final decision was left with Nawaz Sharif who agreed with Ch Nisar.
Dot three; on July 7, 2007 PML-N hosted the first meeting of APDM in London. The participants included leaders of the major political parties, judges, senior media gurus, and known civilian personalities. One of the agenda items was not to have political contacts with MQM. It was supported by most of the leaders like, JI, TIP, ANP and PPP. Nawaz Sharif personally was not against MQM participating, nevertheless he agreed for the greater good of unity between the various groups. It is pertinent to mention that while PML-N leadership was trying to create pressure against the dictatorial regime of Gen Musharaf, one of its primary partners – the PPP – was making contacts with Gen Musharraf and MQM through Rehman Malik. The MQM was made to believe that it was Nawaz Sharif who opposed their participation. The misunderstanding still persists between the two parties.
Dot four; in April 2008 when Musharraf was president, I wrote an article titled ‘Is Nawaz Sharif being marginalised?’ in which I said that a conspiracy was hatched by the presidency to block the restoration of the deposed CJP; to keep Musharaf for the full term of five years; and to marginalise Nawaz Sharif and exclude PML-N from the coalition in the centre by making a new coalition between PPP, ANP, MQM and PML-Q. This would have been rewrite of a plan Musharaf made before sacking Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudry on March 9, 2007.
Dot five; on Feb, 26, 2009, President Zadari imposed Governor Rule in Punjab after the Zardari-friendly SC disqualified the Sharif brothers paving the way to isolate PML-N and install a government prescribed earlier by Musharraf. Meanwhile, a spiritual group in Islamabad became active to wash away the differences between PML-N and MQM. After a few unofficial meetings between the high-ups on both sides, a meeting was arranged with Shehbaz Sharif in the third week of March 2009 to clear the way for a meeting between Altaf Hussain and Nawaz Sharif. 10 days before the meeting in Lahore, the Long March headed by Nawaz Sharif turned the political tide on Zardari’s plan, delaying the proposed meeting.
Dot six; the August 2010 floods and its aftermath sparked discontent amongst a vast number of the public after the government failed to reach the victims in their time of need and, instead, they heard influential politicians diverting flood water to save their lands at the expense of drowning what little the poor people had. To top it all, foreign governments showed reservations funding the government for its poor governance and spiralling corruption. It ignited conspiracy theories leading to the appearance of a new slogan and politicians, political activists and members of society started demanding a ‘change’.
In this confusion, Gen (Rtd) Musharaf decided to launch his own party. An early announcement by Altaf Hussain acted like oil on the fire and the sidelined political parties started moving fast in the direction of Pir Pagaro. Pir Sahib on his behalf started giving predictions in his usual style calling Bilawal his nephew, Musharraf his friend, the religious leaders his buddies and MQM his future ally. As if this wasn’t enough, he invited Gen. Kayani to his dera.
Dot seven; while various parties were gathering around Pir Pagaro, Ishaq Dar was having a one-on-one meeting with Governor Ishratul Ibad, after offering his condolences at Nine Zero on the assassination of Dr Imran Farooq. He couldn’t have gone there without the blessing of Nawaz Sharif and it would be naive to presume that Altaf Hussain was not put in the picture about his visit.
Dot eight; the top leadership of ANP has always had close links with Ch Nisar and Nawaz Sharif.
Now, let us connect these dots vis-a-vis Nawaz Sharif who knows where he stands with Zardari as long as his intriguing cronies such as Rehman Malik, Salman Taseer and Babar Awan stay around him.
That derailment of democracy will wash away his struggle of the last 10 years.
His association with the army hierarchy is not as cosy as some would like him to have.
His relationship with America is not as cordial as the Americans have with other political forces.
That the public has a perception of PML-N having a soft spot for the Taliban which is made obvious by statements of certain PML-N leaders.
That thrice before, his opponents had tried to isolate him from mainstream politics and failed. They are trying for the fourth time, but they can’t do it without the support of MQM. Also, this time, ANP for its own interest can turn around for a handshake with PML-N.
The question is where do these dots lead to? The Pagaro gathering and Ishaq Dar’s dash to 90 is part of an end game. Involving Gen Kayani in this game by Zardari was a political blunder. The SC gave a breathing space to the PPP government to correct its position with regards to NRO and corruption. As a result, the cronies around Zardari will soon start falling like shooting stars until the dot stops at him. Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif, so far, has played this game wisely by making contacts with MQM to counter the Pagaro gathering and ANP’s deep links with the US as a window to clear the latter’s worries about PML-N. It looks like the ten years exile has turned Nawaz Sharif into a statesman. It is interesting that a year ago Zardari told someone that Nawaz Sharif should learn a lesson or two from him in politics ignoring the fact that politics without statesmanship is like syrup without a sweetener.