Who thought Nawaz Sharif would turn out to be a bigger liberal than Imran Khan?

Published: March 19, 2016
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Photo: AFP

Is this really Nawaz Sharif?

The religious-right choked on their tea when Nawaz Sharif shared his vision of a more ‘liberal’ Pakistan during a speech to the international business community in late 2015.

Some thought he misspoke. Others felt he was pandering.

When hours later, in response to the anger, the Pakistani prime minister clarified his statement, it seemed like Nawaz was caving in.

But, no.

Over the course of his leadership, it has become clear that rather than deep frying, Nawaz Sharif believes in slow roasting a chicken. In this hyperventilating country, perhaps this is what Pakistan needs.

Case in point: When Imran Khan ran a circus after being controlled like a pawn that was convinced it was on a path to become the queen, Nawaz did not respond in kind. The reasons could have been many, but it was Sharif who came out on top, while the rest of the country was left questioning Khan’s competence, intelligence, sanity, wisdom, and more.

Yes, the PML-N simply held their collective breaths, while PTI self-destructed like a boy trying to get inside a candy shop by running headfirst into the wall.

It is hard to believe that under Nawaz, a man previously attached to the religious right like a conjoined twin, Pakistan has moved against child marriages, unblocked YouTube, put forth a historic bill to protect women, finally melted a snowball that, as evident from its funeral, had rolled into a snow hill, and brought the threat of terrorism to its knees.

But wait, Nawaz isn’t done yet.

In context of this country’s extremist history, remarkably, the Pakistani government has agreed to adopt Holi, Diwali, and Easter, as holidays.

No, some don’t believe it is really Nawaz.

Photo: Twitter

Adding to the mystery is a report that this particular woman was spotted entering the PM house a year ago:

Photo: IMDB

Unfortunately, our conservative right won’t sit while Mystique err… Nawaz Sharif stands for a progressive, tolerant, and just Pakistan.

In an ultimatum, the religious parties have warned the government to withdraw the Women Protection Bill by March 27, or face dire consequences.

According to Dawn, a joint declaration said,

“All official announcements about a liberal, secular Pakistan and against Islamic injunctions are a revolt against the constitution and betrayal of the founding fathers of the country…The religious leadership stands united to safeguard Namoos-i-Risalat and the Muslim family system and they will foil conspiracies to make Pakistan a secular, liberal state.”

What exactly do the religious parties find so liberal about affording protection to our most abused citizens?

More importantly, it is depressing to note that our religious parties are only compelled into action in times like this.

Why don’t they protest against child marriages?

Why don’t they protest against forced conversations?

Why don’t they protest against domestic violence?

Why don’t they protest against honor killings?

Why don’t they protest against rapes, and gang rapes?

Why don’t they protest against acid attacks?

Why haven’t they protested against extremism?

Isn’t it the least bit suspicious that when the cookies are missing from the cookie jar, the only person visibly angry about a new lock is the lazy housemate who sits quietly otherwise?

It gets even more depressing when you consider how spineless our leaders are. Take for example Imran Khan, who rather than join hands with the Pakistan government, claimed that adoption of a domestic violence bill in KPK hinged on the CII, which is an advisory council with a frighteningly deep pattern of misogyny.

There are certain issues that our various political parties need to stand united against, in spite of their animosities. Certainly, problems that affect Pakistan on a national scale should be tackled with a unified stance. The rights of women to stand as equals, unhindered and unmolested is one these pressing matters.

But it isn’t surprising that Imran Khan is all talk and no game. Consider that the political party to call for a protest against the government on March 27 is PTI’s playmate, Jamaat-i-Islami.

Ultimately, Mystique err… Nawaz Sharif will do what he does best when cornered: compromise. But decades ago, when Nawaz Sharif was rubbing shoulders with the clerics while Imran Khan was the icon for Pakistani liberals, could anyone have predicted that one day Nawaz Sharif would be the bigger feminist?

Who would’ve thunk it?

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.