Maryam’s putsch | Pakistan Today

Maryam’s putsch

A flash in the pan?

Was the show of strength by the PML-N in front of NAB’s Lahore headquarters on Tuesday merely a flash in the pan or a real change of direction, only time will tell. Of course, the focus of attention was on the PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz who had been summoned by the accountability watchdog in a fresh case.

After a long hiatus Nawaz Sharif’s political heir apparent reappeared on the scene with a bang. During her long absence, she confined herself to her Jati Umrah abode on the outskirts of Lahore. Apart from an occasional tweet she meticulously avoided taking part in any kind of political activity whatsoever.

Critics contend that the kind of meaningless politics Shahbaz Sharif has pursued throughout this year will run the PML-N aground. If Sharif reckons that the party he presides has a blank check to be encashed owing to the PTI’s malfeasance whenever the opportunity arises, he is sadly mistaken. There is no gain without pain.

During this period Shahbaz Sharif, the president of the party, also went into self-isolation himself to his Model Town residence limiting his politics to occasional statements issued by the party spokesperson on his behalf. The excuse he proffered was that the Covid-19 pandemic had also hit him.

Despite paying lip service to the joint opposition, Sharif remained aloof on one pretext or the other. The PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto visited Lahore twice to meet him. But to no avail.

Finally, when Bilawal and JUI-F (Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam) president Maulana Fazlur Rehman did met, it was decided to hold the elusive APC (all parties conference) post Eid. More than two weeks have elapsed since, and there has been no movement about fixing a date or even the agenda of the proposed APC.

Both the Maulana and the PPP leadership are a bit flustered owing to this patently benign attitude on the part of Shehbaz Sharif who has effectively filibustered the APC beyond Moharram due later this month. Knowing his pro establishment predilection, it is obvious that Sharif seems to be biding his time as an absentee opposition leader.

Some critics contend that he is waiting to graze in better pastures with a little help from the miltesatblishment. To put it bluntly, the powers that be have an attitude towards PML-N and the PPP bordering on: plague on both houses.

Neither the Sharifs nor the Zardaris are a viable option for them. Prior to 2018 general elections, finally they settled for Imran Khan as the fabled Manchurian candidate. At one stage Sharif was considered to be one of their favourites. They are sticking to their original choice despite forlorn hopes of the opposition.

The ostensible honeymoon (if ever it was) with younger Sharif did not last for long. His biggest perceived failure was that he was unable to deliver his elder brother’s silence as a run up to the 2018 general elections.

By the time he was able to convince his brother that spewing fire and brimstone will get them nowhere, it was too late. The die was already cast.

After buying Maryam’s silence, Nawaz Sharif was allowed to travel abroad on nebulous health grounds. The prodigal daughter’s public appearances were restricted to nil. Her father has also been overtly careful not to issue any critical statements from London.

But even after brokering this carefully calibrated deal (whose details are still a well-kept secret) there is no let up to NAB’s relentless pursuit against Shahbaz Sharif.

In this backdrop Maryam’s defiant show in front of the NAB headquarters in Lahore will prove to be a breath of fresh air for the demoralised opposition. Many of the frontline PML-N leadership and belligerent workers were present there.

Undoubtedly this was a planned show of strength. The Maryam camp was fully prepared for the showdown, while the Punjab police was also ready for them.

The police used most of its third-degree signature tactics against the PML-N workers. These included pepper spraying, tear gas, water cannons and brickbats.

The Punjab government spokesmen brazenly lied that it was the police that was the victim of PML-N violence. But the manner in which Maryam’s bullet proof vehicle was aggressively attacked with projectile bricks belies that claim.

In fact, the allegation that PML-N workers attacked their own leader’s car sounds so ludicrous that it does not even merit serious mention. Nonetheless, whatever the real facts, NAB through its incessant hounding of the opposition, unwittingly played into its hands.

Maryam through sheer luck or meticulous planning put up a good show from the opposition’s point of view. She made good use of the news channels’ live coverage of the event.

Her decision not to budge from the NAB headquarters gate unless she was heard as per the accountability watchdog’s summons was a smart move. For the first time NAB sleuths seemed to be on the defensive pleading with the PML-N vice president to leave as the hearing had been postponed. Leave she did but not without nailing her point home.

Going forward, will Maryam go back into hibernation or come out again with full strength?

Critics contend that the kind of meaningless politics Shahbaz Sharif has pursued throughout this year will run the PML-N aground. If Sharif reckons that the party he presides has a blank check to be encashed owing to the PTI’s malfeasance whenever the opportunity arises, he is sadly mistaken. There is no gain without pain.

So far as Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the main sponsor of the elusive APC is concerned, he is unhappy with the mainstream opposition parties for supporting FATF legislation without consulting him. Both Shahbaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto have yet to meet him or offer any explanation for not taking him on board.

It is obvious that the secular parties and the religious zealots have different priorities. Fazl wants the government to be sent packing even it means chaos on the streets as it doesn’t matter for him if the democratic project is packed up in the process. So be it.

Both Sharif and Bilawal do not want this to happen. Perhaps they reckon such chaos and mayhem engendered through a large number of madrassa followers of JUI-F will inexorably suck the military in.

Post March next year when Senate elections are held, the opposition will lose its working majority in the Upper House as well. This would mean more opposition specific draconian legislation.

The military-civilian partnership will become stronger with an even more pronounced centralized federal system, further eroding the democratic project in the process.

The federal government is already threatening governor rule in Sindh in vague terms. Strangely enough it is getting tail winds from the apex court. The CJP is rightly upset over the shoddy manner in which civic affairs of Karachi have been mishandled by the provincial government.

But thanks to the eighteenth amendment it is easier said than done.

For the time being the political opposition wants to have it both ways- hunt with the hounds and run with the hares.