Pakistan’s political temperature rising rapidly, but Nawaz speech has thrown spanner in the wheel of opposition plans

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Salahuddin Haider

IN an environment where rising political temperature can lead to ominous situations, prime minister Imran Khan has to show wisdom, and instead of opting for confrontation, should manipulate the dangerous situation to his benefit. First and foremost requirement to achieve this goal is to outsmart the opposition by a cool and calculated approach.
To his great advantage, Nawaz Sharif, the PML(N) supremo has already thrown the spanner into wheels of opposition plans of agitation, which the Establishment feels can lead to chaos, proving suicidal for recovery of economic growth from corona pandemics. Unemployment has dipped to abysmal levels, growth rate is in the negative zone already, and even slight miscalculation can lead to disaster, recovery from where would turn out to be a tough task.
Also to his favour, has been opposition conglomeration of politicians, at variance with each other, almost daggers drawn until recently. They have not united at the Pakistan Democratic Movement Platform, picking JUI chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who, not only out to settle personal vendetta against PTI chief for obvious reasons may cause dent in opposition ranks because of his die-hard, uncompromising approach.
Quite a few factors go in favour of the ruling party. It includes the crucial question as to whether the opposition parties can maintain unity in their ranks. The situation had taken a new turn with the indictment of Peoples Party leader Asif Zardari and Faryal Talpur, the summoning of Fazlur Rehman by NAB for collecting assets beyond means, and the court refusal to allow Shahbaz Sharif’s appeal for release on bail. He too is NAB custody till Oct 13.
Such stalwarts being out of the scene, the question demanding satisfactory answer is whether Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal can really be inspirational for workers and party supporters, and can they motivate them for street agitation. History is rich with examples where Pakistan Democratic Movement during General Ziaul Haq’s days, or the Pakistan Democratic Alliance succeeded in their goals or floundered in the middle. In both these cases, army’s interference not only brought their plans to halt, but led to imposition of martial law and military courts in the country.
Luckily, General Pervez Musharraf too dismissed Nawaz Sharif in October 1999 after his plan was allegedly ordered to be diverted to destinations other than Karachi, Musharraf was returning home from an official visit to Sri Lanka when Nawaz found himself trapped in vertigo, and had to tender apology for repatriation to Saudi Arabia.
The onslaught from government ministers, accusing Nawaz of being “traitor”, a Modi friend, and allowing him to visit his Jati Umra home in Lahore to attend grand daughter’s wedding, and having secret meeting with Indian businessman Jundal in Murree, has unnerved the opposition, because seemingly, the counter attack from cabinet minsters has been a success. Nawaz has been painted blacl before the Pakistanis, and for the Estalishment. Secondly, and very importantly, the blunt denial from DG ISPR about Ghafoor Haidery’s claim that he or his party leader Fazlur Rehman, met General Qamar Bajwa to discuss Nawaz Sharif. The rebuttal was from army spokesman was indeed very powerful who took serious exceptions to such blatant lies, making it clear that noting about Nawaz Sharif was discussed during the meeting between army chief and JUI chief. Sheikh Rashid had earlier, claimed repeatedly, and in forceful words that Fazlur Rehman had met the army chief secretly and was now posing himself as anti-Establishment, Neither the army, nor the JUI chief denied the charge.
Now Nawaz had banned his party workers and leaders from meeting army or the ISI chiefs. His contempt against military interference in civilian matters is too well known to recount again and again. He just could not manage with General Waheed Kakar, General Jehangir Keramat and even with Pervez Musharraf, despite reconciliation attempts from his late father Mian Mohammad Sharif, who arranged a meeting between Nawaz, and Musharraf in hospital, where was trying to recoup from severe ailment. Shahbaz Sharif was also present in that meeting, which Maryam Nawaz was forced to admit that from the beginning her uncle believed in compromises. This was well known to everyone, including Nawaz.
Opposition now seems on the defensive and does not really know as to how to counter allegations from the ruling party of Nawaz’s Indian connections, which Sheikh Rashid and cabinet members allege included secret meetings with Indian diplomats in London, and his frequent telephone calls to Modi from outside Pakistan. This could well be wild allegations, but it does influence the common man who treats Nirender Modi as Pakistan’s enemy number one.