The “homecoming” rally serves no purpose to anyone except to stroke Nawaz Sharif’s ego
Pakistan continues to be the playground for politicians. Fit or fat, fair or dark, politicians of all caste and creed continue to make a mockery of Pakistan and its people. What is this democracy they tout when the only choice they give to the people is themselves? As was evident from Imran Khan’s dharna and now Nawaz Sharif’s rally, our leaders seem to care more about touting their own horns and publicising their victimhood instead of helping the masses.
Nawaz started towards Lahore on Wednesday afternoon, as if he were a king receiving an amicable send off from a grateful nation instead of a prime minister deposed on corruption charges. There were grand announcements of a march to Lahore under the shadow of a fawning public. Unfortunately, various media sources reported that the rally failed to get an optimal number of activists. Nawaz was supposed to lead the crowds to D-Chowk and deliver a rousing speech; however, the speech was cancelled due to ‘security’ reasons. Again, the real reason purported by various media sources was a lack of crowds.
Even though the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) failed to achieve in crowd numbers, they were quite successful in inconveniencing the people of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. What they claim as a gain of political capital is actually a drain of national capital. The newly minted Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal is leading the rally to ‘monitor security’. Yes, ensuring security in the country is one of his jobs as interior minister, but why does he actually have to lead a former prime minister’s rally? A blast happened in Lahore, there is unrest in the tribal areas, the country is battling power outages, poverty and a negative stigma, yet priority is given to a political rally that serves no purpose to anyone except to stroke Nawaz’s ego? The rally is supposed to take four to six days to get to Lahore – will our interior minister be absent for his actual duties during this entire period?
There is a mobile health unit attached with this rally. What about all the cities and villages in Pakistan that lack basic health care services? What about the pathetic conditions of hospitals in Lahore, which is supposed to be a strong hold for PML-N? When the recent oil spill tragedy occurred in Bhawalpur, the city came up woefully lacking in burn units. Bhawalpur is a major commercial hub of Punjab, Pakistan’s most profitable province and one that has been ruled by the PML-N for decades. Yet, the priority has been given to provide a serviceable mobile health unit to Nawaz’s rally. This clearly proves whose benefit and safety is actually important – not the people, but an ousted, corrupt politician.
Containers in the Pakistani political landscape play the same role as Hollywood vanity vans. Apart from import and export activities, they are most commonly used to block roads to limit street protests or to transport politicians. The container Nawaz is travelling in is bulletproof. Imran and Tahirul Qadri famously gave rousing speeches at their dharnas outside their containers and stayed inside them at all other times. Unlike vanity vans, containers are ugly, huge and difficult to move. One major reason for the rally moving at such a slow pace is because the PML-N plans to move this container from Islamabad to Raiwind. If the streets in Islamabad are choked right now, I shudder to think of the traffic jams they will cause on GT Road.
To hear the PML-N leadership talk about the rally, they are positioning it as a ‘homecoming’ rally for Nawaz. When former president Barack Obama finished his second term in the White House, he quietly packed up and left. There was no ‘homecoming’ rally conducted in his honour and neither was there any fuss within his political party, the Democrats. Secondly, neither Obama nor his siblings/offspring/parents were appointed as president for life of either the Democratic Party or the US.
What’s surprising though is how confidently Nawaz led this rally, considering how the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) de-notified him a couple of days ago. Since this notice rendered him ineligible to act as PML-N’s president, should he have been allowed to lead the rally as the leader of the party? Ethically, no, but in Pakistan, the powerful can ignore constitutional verdicts and get away with everything.
That being said, it will be difficult for Nawaz to give up his position, but legally, he has no choice. The party needs to hold intra-party elections as soon as possible to elect a new head for the party. For now, though, according to the majority vote in the party, Shehbaz Sharif will step in as his replacement. This works out perfectly for Nawaz, since he can’t afford the party being run by anyone other than a Sharif.
Pakistan is on the cusp of turning 70. The country has seen more than its fair share of disasters and tragedies, be it natural, terrorist-related or political. Yet the country seems to drag on – just like Nawaz’s container through the streets of Islamabad. Like all other disasters, we will survive this as well. Though we should try to break this habit and either elect leaders that care about the country rather than themselves or at least dismiss leaders through the democratic process.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.