Is PML-N the most liberal regime Pakistan has seen in recent times?

Published: January 5, 2017

Nawaz Sharif and PML-N have taken certain initiatives of a very sensitive nature that must be lauded. PHOTO: REUTERS.

A single click on Google reveals liberal to mean someone who is willing to respect or accept the behaviour and opinions of others that might be different from one’s own. It might come as a shock to many if one was to claim that the regime of Nawaz Sharif might be the most liberal Pakistani regime in contemporary times, and perhaps second only to the great Quaid himself. I don’t claim this because I support Nawaz Sharif or Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N); on the contrary I spent Election Day sleeping, because I had no hopes from any political party to deliver any true change. I still believe that true change is still a long shot away, but I think credit should be given where it’s due.

Starting with the recent appointment of an army chief, who was allegedly labelled an Ahmadi, to changing the name of the National Centre of Physics at Quaid-e-Azam University to Abdus Salam Centre of Physics, Nawaz Sharif has shown that he is not easily influenced by vile propaganda. Why else would someone risk irking Pakistan’s notorious mullahs, especially at a time when one is already engulfed in issues like the Panama gate scandal? However, Nawaz Sharif’s stance has shown that he might not be as afraid as other political leaders to take on the conservative factors in the country, if the need arises.

Take for example the case of Imran Khan, who had to backtrack from his claim of making Atif Mian his Finance Minister just because of his faith, and his pre-election spree against the Ahmadis just to prove that he was not working on their agenda. Bhutto too is sometimes celebrated as a leader who held to liberal values, but his actions, such as the passing of the second amendment, prohibition of liquor, making Friday a public holiday and appointing Ziaul Haq prove otherwise.

The fact that the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri could not be carried out during the tenure of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), despite the fact that the slain governor was from the ruling party shows how big a step it was for the PML-N. The situation in the aftermath of the hanging was predicted to create a huge law and order situation as already warned by the supporters of Mumtaz Qadri, yet the ruling political party stuck to their guns, and went on with taking the risk despite being fully aware about the stakes involved. This deserves a lot of appreciation given the sensitivity of the topic, and the emotions it still tends to generate.

Nawaz Sharif is also often found being part of Diwali and Christmas celebrations, and his speeches at such occasions emphasise a lot on interfaith harmony. Only a few months back, a resolution was passed in the national assembly which proposed public holidays on Diwali, Easter, and Holi which, in my opinion, is also a step in the right direction.

Former Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed found himself amidst a heated controversy when he blamed madrassas for promoting ignorance and imparting its students with “Murda Fikr” (dead knowledge). The speech set off a firestorm amongst the religious hardliners, and posters were put up in the capital city, Islamabad which called for him to be publicly hanged. Furthermore, Mufti Naeem from Jamia Binoria issued a fatwa of apostasy against him. However, PML-N was able to cool down the controversy without having to take any action against the then information minister.

All this does not necessarily translate into a rosy picture for the land of the pure; there are still certain issues that need immediate attention. These include the recent election of an individual from a banned organisation into the Punjab assembly, and the perception that PML-N allied itself with the terrorist organisation, Ahlu Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), in many constituencies in Punjab. However, Nawaz Sharif and PML-N have taken certain initiatives of a very sensitive nature that must be lauded, and which might not have been taken by the leadership of another political party had it been in power.

Mohammad Ali Ilahi

Mohammad Ali Ilahi

The writer is a LUMS graduate currently working in the marketing team of Sapphire. He tweets @MAliIlahi (

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

  • ALI

    Good article, and very true.Recommend

  • Hammad Shariq

    A liberal regime with a liar is no use to the common man.Recommend

  • Patwari

    This PM is the same man that wanted to negotiate with extremists/terrorists.
    His home province is the hot bed of every sectarian outfit, With a free rein.
    Every banned outfit is allowed and thrives in Punjab. This PM is also the
    patron of the Burqa Mulla. [he is keeping him out of jail] Same mulla who
    threatened to bring the Pak government down, if they so much as look at him!!
    Liberal you say? Get a life.Recommend

  • Rizwan Rauf

    very nicely written its true its the most liberal regime we have seen in last 20 yearsRecommend

  • Zayeed Mohummed

    It actually is.Recommend

  • stevenson

    The very fact that you can call someone a liar is a demonstration of the current liberal nature of the government. It is ironic since the Pakistani economy is doing better than it has in ages and it is even moving to a middle income country. Despite being more liberal, violence is down and stability is returning to even Karachi and KPK and not just Punjab. Whatever the government of Nawaz Sharif is doing, let’s hope they keep doing more of the same. CPEC is under way, the electricity shortage is being addressed and the media are free to criticise political leaders openly. Sounds like Western style development !Recommend

  • Parvez

    This just has to be satire…….Recommend

  • Ahmar

    A good observation. I don’t like Nawaz Sharif much either, but there is no denying that the present government is as liberal as we can hope to get in a country where hundreds of people celebrate the death of Salman Taseer.

    Nice post.Recommend

  • Bogus

    He didn’t do squat to remove the Google ban, hasn’t taken a meaningful step against the conservative right, hasn’t made any effort to mitigate Blasphemy laws, …… and the list go’s on & on. How’s that equate to Liberal?Recommend

  • Patwari

    Because none of it is true. It’s just one loan after loan after another loan….
    A women died on the floor of a Govt. run hospital, because
    they refused her medical attention. She did not have the
    money. She was turned away from two other govt. hospitals.
    That is called progress?? In which country? In which language?

  • stevenson

    Maybe you know more than the Western financial houses that have upgraded Pakistan’s economy and market or maybe your knowledge of investment is better than London or New York’s Wall street or the myriad international observers who rate markets and have nothing to do with Pakistan ! You should write to Standard and Poor’s or the Economist or the Wall Street Journal and tell them that all the you are more knowledgeable than all of them and you are better in predicting economic indices. Also tell them the record Karachi Stock Market and the international financial community’s reassessment of Pakistan as an emerging economy is all wrong and they should just listen to you. Whether in Hindi , Urdu, Punjabi or English, facts are facts are whether you hate a politician or not, you need to grow up and accept that the world sees an improving economy. As for improved security, infrastructure and improving energy crisis that is pretty obvious. Things are not perfect but try to see the bigger picture and you will have a better 2017! I think the improved economy and improved political situation including tolerance goes hand in hand.Recommend

  • Parvez

    When the economic crash happened in America in 2008 ALL the rating agencies had given the big banks / finance houses a positive rating…..later when asked the reply was simple ‘ …it was just our opinion ( obviously they were wrong ).Recommend