My fading memories: Past haunts a transformed Nawaz Sharif..!
By Shiraz Paracha
During most of my journalistic career and youth years, I opposed Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif’s politics and policies. Nawaz Sharif was the spiritual son of General Zia-ul-Haq and had been instrumental in implementing General Zia’s disastrous policies.
In the late 1980s, Nawaz Sharif had opposed the Prime Minister of his own party Mr. Muhammed Khan Junejo. On 29 May 1988, when General Zia had dismissed the government of Prime Minister Junejo, Punjab Chief Minister Nawaz Sharif, on the instructions of General Zia, had orchestrated a rebellion again Junejo and had him removed from Muslim League president-ship. Junejo left without speaking against General Zia or Nawaz Sharif.
In 1991, I met Muhammad Khan Junejo at his house in Karachi. He agreed to see us thanks to the Chief Editor of our newspaper Mr. Akbar Ali Bhatti who was an IJI MNA at that time. Mr Junejo was not ready for an interview but when we met face to face, after some discussions he agreed to speak on record about his experiences and observations as Prime Minister. Thus I became a journalist who had the first and perhaps the last interview with Muhammad Khan Junejo after his sacking from the office. Few years later he died quietly.
In that interview, Mr. Junejo had explained how his party colleagues had betrayed him. There I learned lot of new things about Nawaz Sharif’s political ambitions and style. That interview had created ripples in the Pakistani politics. The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was not happy when Junejo’s interview was published in daily Pakistan Lahore.
Before the 1988 elections, Hussain Haqanni was the press secretary of Nawaz Sharif. He had run a very unethical campaign against Benazair Bhutto and Begam Nusrat Bhutto.
In 1989, Nawaz Sharif was the Chief Minister of Punjab when many members of the National Assembly were taken to Changa Manga near Lahore and were kept at the resort till voting a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in the National Assembly. That motion had failed and Benezair continued as the Prime Minister.
Senator Saif-u-Rahman had broken all previous records of political meddling. As journalists, many of us had suffered at the hands of Saif-u-Rahman and the Sharif government.
Nawaz Sharif is very fond of cricket. He would often come to Lahore and play cricket with local teams. Well-known TV anchor and journalist Hamid Mir can tell more about those cricket matches where the Prime Minister with a bat in his hand would enter the ground in the middle of a game. It was amusing to watch him ‘play cricket’.
In 1997 elections, I was one of the political commentators at the PTV election city in Islamabad. When the results were completed I was asked to comment on the results. I had said on live TV that the elections did not seem fair and that Muslim League (N) landslide victory was mysterious. I was banned from TV after those comments.
In 1998, I left Pakistan for the UK. Perhaps in 2005, Pir Sabir Shah came to London and invited me to a gathering where I saw Nawaz Sharif after a long time and noticed some changes in his personality. He appeared humble and serious. A year later, I also attended the signing ceremony of the ‘Charter of Democracy’ in London.
Rahman Malik insisted that the final talks and the signing of the Charter of Democracy must be held at his place in London. Actually, he wanted Nawaz Sharif to come to his (Rahman Malik’s) flat. Surprisingly, otherwise stubborn Nawaz Sharif agreed to go to Rahman Malik’s flat.
Rahman Malik lived in a small apartment on Edgware Road close to Marble Arch area. It was difficult to accommodate so many people in his small living-room but Nawaz Sharif did not mind. On that day, I noticed further changes in Nawaz Sharif—he was calm, sober and offered genuine respect to Benazir Bhutto.
After 2006, I never met Nawaz Sharif. Upon my return to Pakistan at the end of 2012, I was fascinated to see a transformed Nawaz Sharif. Such transformation is rare in Pakistan. I often remember a September 1989 evening, when I was at a guesthouse in Islamabad with a few friends. One of them was an IJI member of the National Assembly. During our conversation the IJI MNA said: “We have been advising Chief Minister Nawaz Sharif to prepare for prime minister-ship”. I was shocked to hear his words. To me, Nawaz Sharif was a puppet and son of Pakistan’s worst military dictator. I couldn’t imagine him becoming the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. About a year later, to our disgust, he was the Prime Minister of Pakistan, which the opposition had called engineered elections.
But 26 years after his first term, he has surprised us again. Nawaz Sharif is a mature leader who is walking on a very tight rope now. He is trying to defend Pakistan’s weak democracy which is always under attack in the security state of Pakistan.
It is very hard for me but I admit that after Prime Minister Z.A Bhutto, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is fighting for a democratic Pakistan. Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif are two different personalities. Nawaz Sharif can’t be Bhutto. Bhutto wanted civilian supremacy in Pakistan. He lived and died for peoples’ rights. Nawaz Sharif wants the same and faces the same challenges and opposition. Forces which opposed and had eventually killed Bhutto are playing games against Nawaz Sharif. These internal and external forces want a total control over Pakistan.
Nawaz Sharif was politically born in a cruel regime that patronized and promoted corruption. In Asghar Khan case, General Mirza Aslam Baig, General Hameed Gul and others were accused of distributing bribes among politicians, ironically, Nawaz Sharif was one of those who had allegedly received the money.
General Zia’s regime used drug money and Afghan aid to achieve political targets. General Musharraff is also accused of doing the same. The United States gave billions of dollars to General Musharraf. No one is asking where that money has gone?
I agree that Nawaz Sharif was created and established by a corrupt system but Pakistan’s biggest and unresolved problem is who has the right to govern this state where civilians are bloody civilians. Like Bhuttos, Nawaz Sharif has challenged powerful forces. He started as a puppet because in the Pakistani politics puppets are acceptable. But the moment they try to be independent, plots for their removal start. This is happening to Nawaz Sharif. He is trying to diversify Pakistan’s foreign policy and has been encouraging regional trade and business, particularly with India. And this is very risky path for a politician.
His government has launched long-term and big infrastructure development projects which will connect Pakistan to the Eurasian region. The energy crisis may also be resolved within few years. These projects are crucial for Pakistan’s economic growth and development. The problem is that if these projects are completed and relations with neighbors are improved, the resulting prosperity and stability may help Nawaz Sharif get re-elected and keep interfering in affairs which are otherwise out of bound for elected prime ministers.
If General Raheel retires on time and Nawaz Sharif will complete his term Pakistan will move forward. We should trust the people of Pakistan, only and only they have the right to elect or reject a politician or political party through their votes. If they don’t agree with Nawaz Sharif’s policies and politics they will reject him in the next election. It is in Pakistan’s interest that every elected government completes its terms. To me, Nawaz Sharif is a man who perhaps wants to correct his past mistakes but his own past now haunts him.
Shiraz Paracha is a famous writer and journalist and currently works at Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan (AWKUM) and Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He is known for his understanding with Central Asian issues. He had been working with Kazakhstan Institute of Management and Research and Press TV. He finished his studies in International Journalism at City University London.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.