Friday the 13th debacle | Pakistan Today

Friday the 13th debacle

  • First step towards a massive clean-up?

Glued to television sets, the frequent change of airports, airplanes and postal codes had the entire country cheering for a fate-known. My generation wasn’t young enough to witness or remember what had happened in the 1990’s — but stories surfacing each time a prominent political leader is convicted have become a part of politicisation and taken up as a norm. However, in the age of ‘free press’ and media, the sheer magnitude of a high profile arrests turned out to be a drama of national interest.

I’m sure many like myself were excited at how the handcuffs would come on again, nervous for the hundreds of roadblocks all over the city, and anxious about how Saturday morning would be. Needless to say, it went all according to plan.

The debacle began early morning on Friday when news of the two Sharifs at Abu Dhabi International Airport started surfacing. For the next twelve hours, all eyes were fixated on the two. It was utter madness. After Jumma prayers, Lahore was on a lockdown and so were all roads and entry points leading to it. Soon enough, the rally being led by Shahbaz Sharif started to proceed from Thokar Niaz Baig towards Lahore airport via Mall Road, whereas, Mushahid Ullah Khan took an alternative route to welcome his party’s president.

People of Lahore were expected to join in large numbers and exhibit their disapproval and resistance to the Supreme Court’s verdict. Not many came out. The absence of large numbers was perhaps the worry all over Shahbaz and his son’s face. He was quiet in his speech and slow in his pace – not the usual campaigner we’ve seen turning heads and microphones.

With Nawaz and his daughter coming back to do their time, the remorseful uncle and his son were out on the streets protesting. Politics is a dirty business, a dirty family business. Voters like to see leaders with integrity, high moral values and lineage – all of which are emboldened in the concept of family. Internationally too, during political campaigns and important rallies, people are more receptive towards those political leaders who seem to be holding it all together at home. The masses trust those who they believe can deliver – and what could be better than a family man, or in Pakistan’s case, the entire family which goes to jail together.

The resolve with which Maryman Nawaz carried herself throughout, and the uneasiness all over Nawaz’s face highlighted the death of Nawaz’s political career and the beginning of Maryam’s. Not once did she break out of character or showed distress for being sent away to spend seven years away from her family

Here, images of a brother out on the streets, a mourning mother and an ailing wife were all too much for validating that the Sharif family was wrongly serving time for their democratic progression. As usual, Shahbaz put up a show in Punjab, only Shahbaz could have. But his rally was blanketed with worry, anxiousness and seemed to have no direction. He could have addressed his followers on one of the many chowks at Mall Road. Many had thought it would be Chairing Cross after all, but Shahbaz barely made the effort. It seemed as if reaching the airport or addressing his scant following wasn’t even on his agenda. While Nawaz and Maryam flew to Lahore, were shifted to another plane, flown to Rawalpindi, Shahbaz was still stuck on Mall Road, of the very Lahore he’s ‘ruled over’ for over three decades. He knew he couldn’t enter Lahore’s Cantonment area and that is perhaps what he wanted to show – that democracy ends at garrisons. But his failure to address his people, the Sharif’s welcoming committee, has to be noted. We don’t know at what point Shahbaz Sharif turned back, thinking what. But what we all saw was a spectacle worthy of remembrance. Much like his usual political-go-to tactic, Shahbaz was able to put up a show, for his brother, his niece, their old mother and the ailing sister-in-law. All of this will site very well with the masses who are now even more charged to vote in favour of the party.

But that’s not all. The resolve with which Maryman Nawaz carried herself throughout, and the uneasiness all over Nawaz’s face highlighted the death of Nawaz’s political career and the beginning of Maryam’s. Not once did she break out of character or showed distress for being sent away to spend seven years away from her family. Labelling it as a sacrifice for democracy, one that involves the entire family is what gives their arrest the political legitimacy that might ensure greater voter turn-out for the upcoming elections.

With Maryam now a political martyr, her political campaign for seventh democratic transition has already begun. The sombre-smiling Maryam, in the face of a seven years’ sentence, is an image that will stay with this largely aloof nation for a long time. 

Many have labelled it as the first step towards a massive clean-up. Perhaps it has begun, but haven’t we already been spectators to this? In a similar vein, someone else is silencing nationalist voices. The attacks at ANP rally, Bannu and Mastung must not be forgotten. We have to understand the greater forces at play here. These elections, much like any other, are important and should be dealt with seriously, with manifestoes compared and votes given on the basis of candidacy and not mere sloganeering. 

Remshay Ahmed

Remshay Ahmed is a Lahore-based freelance journalist and a published author of Foreign Policy of Pakistan (2000-2016): A Game Theory Analysis. She can be reached at [email protected]



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