In the 2018 general elections, it was a dual between agents of change and patrons of status quo. Imran Khan symbolized the change. Nawaz Sharif was strongman of ruling elite to whom change was an anathema. The change triumphed and left ruling elite reeling on slippery ground. The accountability assumed anew and sharper edge. It started its drive vigorously from top by laying hand on Sharif Family and Zardari Family, however, this precipitated ruling elite to gang up more jointly to ward off the threat. They summoned all what they had inside and outside the country. They put all their faculties to work covertly and overtly. The sanctity of right means to achieve ends have never been their concern and in this case, their existence and survival were at stake. It was a matter as of SOS call.
Last one and half year was most testing time for them. They saw their fortunes dwindling ominously, however, they did not relent and finally, they managed to bore holes in edifice of ongoing accountability. The biggest one is travelling of Nawaz Sharif to London. Zardari may follow. Even there may be an outcry to let him go to prevent polarization for the sake of Federation. Two identical wrongs could not be dealt differently. The exit of both may prove fatal to process of accountability. At the moment, it stands battered and is in serious danger of being switched over to back gear. This has certainly stigmatized vow of Imran Khan” not to give NRO to corrupt bigwigs under any event”. This distinguished him from rest of the lot. Its rupture may have consequences of its own on his lifelong campaign.
This was abundantly evident that government had sigh a of relief when Lahore High Court gave extendable permission to Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for four weeks for his medical treatment as opposed to condition of indemnity bond placed by the government. Most likely, Nawaz Sharif would linger on there by taking refuge under provision of medical report by straight and crooked means. The courts are constrained what is presented and argued about it there. The legal performance of government was sluggish despite merit of its earnest of concern for his treatment on humanitarian grounds. It seemed interested only in passing the buck to shield itself legally and moderate ensuing political backlash.
Our national poet and renowned philosopher, Allama Iqbal wrote once that justice is an inestimable treasure but we must guard it against the thief of mercy. It is true particularly, the kind of mercy that flows from fear. Though consideration of mercy is a weighty reason, however, in instant case, thoughts other than this, race through the minds when assessed in backdrop of our past history and recent experience of taking decisions under duress. On grant of bail for eight weeks exclusively for medical treatment, Nawaz Sharif left for home instead of remaining at hospital where best possible treatment was being administered to him. A serious patient hasten to reach hospital. A dangerously ill Nawaz Sharif preferred going to his palatial house at Jatti Umra. It is inconceivable that there is no treatment in the country for ailments of Nawaz Sharif which are mostly of old age. After arriving at Jatti Umra, he advanced the application for allowing him to proceed abroad for treatment despite the fact that he is a convict. The government also readily showed sympathy and took an unpopular decision despite a split within its ranks. Last but not the least, on inauguration of Hazara Motorway, assertions of Imran Khan also subscribe above view. He said that he knows how to win and lose. He knows how to rise when fallen. Amid the challenge, he thrives and enjoys more. By reading between the lines, one may smell bitterness of pill which he had to swallow. Probably he had to concede soft handling of issue of Nawaz Sharif, being inevitable and necessary evil because of vulnerability of the country to pressures of various kinds from within and outside the country. It is no secret that our ruling elite has this leverage for a host of reasons. A PPP stalwart quipped in response that these assertions are of a defeated man. Besides this mega reversal, there are instances of halting or restraining accountability drive for varied compelling reasons. The examples are big businesses and bureaucracy. Regardless of reason of inevitability of situation, in case of Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan has suffered a big loss of face. He has to pull something extra to make his cry of accountability/other claims again credible.
The biggest asset of a political leader is his popular support and it is waning in his case because of ever increasing price hike and scarcity of livelihood and poor governance. Its restoration largely depends upon resolution of these pressing problems. The sound national economy and revamping of national institutions are other imperatives which he has to accomplish to reequip his claims of accountability and making Pakistan a welfare state on lines of Riyasat-e-Madina with credibility. With presence of these fundamental elements, a leader is not constrained to bow to rigors of time and make compromises. Earlier we have also made compromises in different context to buy time and have money but squandered them leisurely. Let’s hope it is not so this time.
— The writer, a retired Lt Col, is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.