“PM should go before he is disqualified”: In conversation with Fawad Chaudhry

 

PTI no longer an NGO, we are now a political force to be reckon with

 

But in my personal view, once PM is disqualified, there will be huge political uncertainty as their track record shows that they are not good at all and handling such pressure and there will always be groups within the party that will go down the course of agitation

 

Question: Your public maximalist position notwithstanding, has PTI prepared, in principal, for both outcomes this time – what you are expecting and the contrary? If so, could you please spell out your modus operandi in case the PM is shown the door, and in case he’s not?

Fawad Chaudhary: See, under the constitution, PML-N has every right to bring in their own prime minister if things go south for their party. Parliament can be called and we’ll have a new prime minister, which is the constitutional way and PTI wants that the system should continue and if PML-N wants to bring in a new PM, they are more than welcome.

If the PM is shown the door, they can bring in another as this is the constitutional mechanism and that is precisely the way it should be. But in my personal view, once PM is disqualified, there will be huge political uncertainty as their track record shows that they are not good at all and handling such pressure and there will always be groups within the party that will go down the course of agitation.

So, I think history will repeat itself once the PM is gone, we will see fragmentation within PML-N and we’ll eventually go to the next election

Q: With all this talk of “conspiracy” against the ruling party, why can’t anybody get them to clearly identify the conspirators? What does the opposition make of this fallback plan? And are there really forces pulling your strings?

FC: Most of the PML-N guys are from 1985 and still stuck in that era, and they find it hard to come to terms with the notion that Pakistan has moved forward. In our land, especially after Pervez Musharraf’s regime and emergence of free media and civil society, the establishment is not that powerful. Many people perceive the establishment, and by this they mean army, can do anything and everything but frankly they can’t. There are multiple examples where army failed to execute things the way they wanted to. So, the era of all powerful army is gone.

Now, with the emergence of media, independent judiciary, the establishment has very little role to play. And this is 2017, people of Pakistan are very aware and public pressure can do wonders.

Many of the PML-N people belong to the times when they were blue eyed boys of establishment and are unwilling to come out of that era. These corruption cases are not the work of some Pakistani institutions, they are work of ICIJ and this case has to reach its logical end.

Q: Has any talk of moving a no-confidence motion against the PM came up in any of the opposition talks so far (Friday afternoon)? What is a possible joint opposition strategy to force out the premier?

FC: Right now, PTI is not interested in any no-confidence vote, we are waiting for Supreme Court’s decision on it. We are waiting to see how SC decides and settles the matter.

If the prime minister doesn’t resign, the Supreme Court of Pakistan will disqualify him as the kind of evidence that has surfaced the two judges, Justice Khosa and Justice Gulzar reached the conclusion even without this evidence. And now the JIT report is very conclusive and I don’t see any room that the Supreme Court can give him.

Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has only one way ahead, that is to resign before the apex court disqualifies him.

Q: Do you think mature political parties should institutionalise the kind of melee that PTI and PML-N regularly put up after SC and JIT hearings? Did either of you gain anything from any of them?

FC: Yes, Pakistan has gained from this anti-corruption movement, again this is not a case by some local political party and by some local media or a smear campaign by some political faction.

Things were taken to the Supreme Court as a matter of last resort. If PML-N had the foresight or the wisdom, things wouldn’t have dragged so far. Political parties vie for power through elections and through manifestos. It is unfortunate that they have to take the road less travelled in this case.

Q: With elections around the corner, how has the JIT episode impacted PTI’s campaign strategy? And what of the charge that it relies too much on “turncoats” – whom it calls “electables” – as opposed to the strength of its agenda

FC: Agenda and ideology travel from top to bottom, not the other way round. PTI’s ideology is one espoused by Imran Khan and in the elections of 1997 and 2002, PTI contested with 100 percent new candidates, in 2013, PTI contested with 95 percent new candidates. All three efforts failed, so obviously we had to change strategy.

So, when you say that you have to bring new people, you can’t ignore the ground realities that are both stark and brutal. We see that these people who are now joining PTI have strong backgrounds in their areas, they feel that PTI vote bank is substantial that can help win them elections. That is why they are joining PTI and PTI thinks that they have the roots that can help the party win elections.

Politics is ultimately about numbers, we are not an NGO. See, the political parties have to win elections and Panama was a godsend, more than that the defence of Nawaz Sharif was a godsend and initially we thought PM will have something but nothing came out at all.

Q: Some leaders of the PML-N have been accusing Imran Khan of being a pawn in the hands of powers that be. The same accusations had been levelled against him back in the days of 2014 dharna. Your take on it?

FC: I would say that Nawaz Sharif emerged as a political leader back in the days of General Zia-ul-Haq and all his life he has remained a pawn in hands of the establishment.

Unfortunately, he thinks that no one can really make that big without the establishment on his back. The thinking process of Nawaz Sharif revolves around the backing of the establishment. When the Bhutto family and Imran Khan come into power through the power of people, it surprises him.

Q: Rumors are making rounds that the Supreme Court, after sending PM Nawaz Sharif packing, might ordain a caretaker setup tasked with across the board accountability

FC: No such setup will be acceptable to PTI, no one in Pakistan has power to extend the election day, including the Supreme Court.

No one can extend the 90 days as stipulated in the constitution. We won’t accept it, as a matter of fact it won’t be acceptable to anyone.

Next elections have to be held under the constitution.

First they asked for the money trail for Bani Gala, which was provided. Then they asked about the money trail from London, then Jemaima Khan sent the documents here. Then they said Imran Khan should disclose the sources of the way he got London apartments, so that record was also furnished

 

Q: What is your take on Hanif Abbasi’s petition against Imran Khan? What will become of it in your opinion?

FC: First they asked for the money trail for Bani Gala, which was provided. Then they asked about the money trail from London, then Jemaima Khan sent the documents here. Then they said Imran Khan should disclose the sources of the way he got London apartments, so that record was also furnished.

Now, they are asking for Imran Khan’s records of earning from 1971, that we are providing now.The only money trail that we have not provided is the pocket money he received as a kid and the Eidis.

Shah Nawaz Mohal

The writer is a law graduate and member of staff, Islamabad Bureau.



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