The changing politics of Nawaz Sharif
By Amir Mateen, The News, March 27, 2010
ISLAMABAD: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s slip of the tongue about requesting the Taliban to spare the Punjab may have triggered graver concerns as to the inner thinking of the party supposedly in waiting to hold power in Islamabad. The changing style of Nawaz Sharif’s cult politics, the pointed-top organisational pyramid and his party’s ambivalent position on crucial issues like the growing religious militancy and terrorism, the security paradigm, economic revival, and stance towards the US, India and Afghanistan necessitates more explanations than are available from the second biggest party of Pakistan.
The PML-N offers a vague one-size-fits-all policy on most issues. The idea is to keep the mainstream swing voters in a flux and show the real teeth once the levers of power are in control. The same strategy is in practice within the party where nobody knows who is going to do what in a future power set-up. A deliberate chaos has been created where all PML-N leaders are saying all things to all people. The real position, if there is one, is only known to Nawaz Sharif.
The party is likely to perform better than its earlier governments, if their hopes of returning to power in Islamabad materialize, or definitely better than the PPP government. But the PML-N is far short of the nirvana its sympathisers are hoping it to deliver.
The PML-N, to be fair, has fought a historic fight and bounced back from a near oblivion to stake its claim for a third round of power in Islamabad. It seems to have learnt a few lessons this time around. There has not been a major corruption scandal against the party. The PML-N seems to have developed respect for public opinion as shown in the case of supporting the judiciary movement and also by sacking elected members when found on a wrong foot. It has supported a democratic continuity and has refrained from becoming a tool in the hands of the establishment to dislodge the PPP government in the Centre — even after the provocative dissolution of their government in the Punjab. The party took a firm stance against the Army’s involvement in politics and did not fall in line to please the Americans overly.
Nawaz Sharif stands taller as a political leader with his closest rivals, after Benazir’s assassination, placed at a distant second position. He has the longest tenure in power than Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and even dictators Ayub, Zia and Musharraf. In his 27-year political career, he has been in power for 13 years -- two years as Punjab minister, five years as Punjab chief minister and almost six years as twice prime minister.
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Part II - Don’t try deciphering Pir Nawaz Sahib-II - The News, March 28, 2010
Part III - Special Report-PML-N - The News, March 29, 2010