A prisoner of his self-serving rhetoric PM Khan is hoist by his own petard. Unable to allow his critically ill nemesis to go abroad for urgently needed treatment, he conveniently passed the buck to the courts.
After sounding magnanimous by removing ailing Nawaz Sharif’s name from the ECL (exit control list) he added a caveat that the incarcerated three times former prime minister submit an indemnity bond amounting to a whopping Rs7.5 billion in order to leave the country for medical treatment.
After almost sounding hoarse, “mein NRO nahin dun ga” (I will not pardon my corrupt political opponents) the PTI chief perhaps reckoned that letting gravely ill Sharif off the hook would be considered mother of all U-turns. Sycophants aplenty around him, willingly playing to his whims and prejudices, enthusiastically seconded him.
Seemingly, the likes of Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Fawad Chaudhry, Firdous Ashiq Awan and Murad Saeed have to sing for their supper. That is why these jokers in the pack have to abuse, malign and humiliate the opposition 24/7 on the idiot box and in the parliament. Perhaps from a script approved at the highest level, it almost sounds like a chorus.
The leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, younger brother Shahbaz Sharif had alleged that, “Imran Khan wants to extract ransom from his ailing opponent in the garb of an indemnity bond”.
He is not alone. Some of the senior members of the ruling coalition were extremely critical of Khan’s recalcitrance. Even coalition partners advised him not to shoot himself in the foot.
Khan should beware of the day when proponents of the present hybrid system come to the unpalatable conclusion that the experiment is failing
Chaudhrys of Gujrat- past allies of the Sharifs turned bitter opponents- implored the prime minister to let the former prime minister go for treatment without imposing any preconditions. The PML-Q supremos warned Khan of the dire consequences if ‘something happened’ to Sharif owing to not receiving timely treatment abroad.
The speaker of the Punjab Assembly Pervez Elahi, quintessentially more critical of the Sharifs than his elder cousin strongly urged Khan not to indulge in vindictive politics. He reminded the prime minister of the adverse consequences the nation has faced owing to the judicial murder of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto by late dictator general Ziaul Haq in1979.
Even chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani piped in, urging the government to facilitate Sharif’s departure.
Apart from the political arguments against keeping Sharif hostage, jurists across the board including those belonging to the ruling coalition had termed the government demanding an indemnity bond to let Sharif go abroad as legally untenable.
Both barristers, Ali Zafar (PTI) and Ali Saif (MQM), unequivocally opined that there was no (legal) justification to put fresh preconditions after the court had already granted Sharif bail.
Thankfully the Lahore High Court’s two-member bench after rejecting the government’s stance on maintainability of the PML-N’s plea has finally allowed Sharif to proceed abroad for medical treatment without having to submit an indemnity bond.
The PTI remained adamant that lest Sharif was allowed to go without any surety, he would surely abscond. This was a facile argument.
Nawaz Sharif, despite being disqualified for life, still calls the shots in the party. His sway over the party affairs is undisputed.
The ‘N’ in the PML-N stands for Nawaz and nobody else. His younger brother Shahbaz Sharif despite having a variant political approach is loyal to his brother. Hence Sharif going in permanent exile will be detrimental for his own politics.
Secondly, for the sake of argument, even if Sharif stays away from Pakistan as long as Khan is around and is declared an absconder from law; the PTI still gains. Judging by the government’s dismal performance in governance and managing the economy the PML-N still remains a formidable electoral foe.
According to most political pundits if elections were held today the PML-N wholly intact will trounce the PTI. The ubiquitous establishment that lent a helping hand in forming the ‘King’s party’, this time hopefully is expected to remain more neutral after its widely criticised controversial role in 2018 elections.
As Chaudhry Shujaat succinctly put it, Khan should concentrate on governance issues rather than chasing mirages of political victimisation buttressed by empty rhetoric. Surely the PTI chief urgently needs some introspection at this juncture.
His brand is failing despite what his cronies and economic advisors tell him. Although macroeconomic indicators are gradually improving, at the same time disaffection amongst the poorer and middle class sections of the society is increasing at an alarming rate.
Manifestly escalating inflation and unemployment have become their bane. Correspondingly big business, industry and traders are facing the brunt of stagflation and sharp fall in demand.
Khan should beware of the day when proponents of the present hybrid system come to the unpalatable conclusion that the experiment is failing. That is why the prime minister instead of relying upon exogenous factors to deliver should seriously start to get his act together.
Instead of feeling elated about what his cabinet colleagues and advisors tell him he should stop taking his coalition partners for granted. The Chaudhry brothers are a case in point.
For quite sometime now they have been privately expressing their unhappiness with Khan’s style of governance. But now in the case of treatment meted out to Sharif they have come out of the closet.
Publicly stating that political differences should not be personalised in the present context is quite significant. Since the inception of the PML-N till general Musharraf’s rule the Sharifs and Chaudhrys were together, if not always on the same page.
History could repeat itself. In any case the PTI has a wafer-thin majority in Punjab. Instead of relying on deliverance from their backers in the ubiquitous establishment and settling political scores in the name of accountability, Khan should shed his vice regal armour and start reaching out to his allies and the opposition too.
The Maulana’s ‘Plan-B’ should be taken more seriously than his ‘Plan-A’ that was restricted to the outskirts of Islamabad. Countrywide closures of roads and important arteries will have serious consequences.
Apart from disrupting supply lines of essential items it will cause tremendous hardships for the citizenry. Thankfully the mainstream opposition has disassociated itself from his quixotic agenda.
To bring urgently needed reforms, Khan should go back to the parliament and engage the opposition. A good beginning was made on Friday after the opposition withdrew its no confidence bid against the deputy speaker of the National Assembly Qasim Suri.
The government in turn withdrew the ordinances passed in unholy haste the other day promising to present them before the parliament. But much more needs to be done on an urgent basis to break the present impasse.