PM’s premature exit


Muhammad Usman
DISQUALIFICATION of Nawaz Sharif was a foregone conclusion. Neither it was sudden nor arranged. It was no judicial coup d’état. Inescapable end was of own self-delusion. Sharif family was given ample time and opportunity to prove their innocence. Instead of presenting a palpable defence, they only resorted to legal chicanery to dodge the bullet of accountability. They failed to see quirks of time. Ultimately, have to pay price nevertheless, along with their clique, they are out in open to belittle decision of Supreme Court on clumsy and peripheral grounds.
One is that no elected PM has been allowed to complete his full term on one pretext or the other. If seen objectively, this may appear parochial. Most of fallen PMs also did everything under the sun to blot their copybook. Let us take examples from 1988 onward wherein, most of them have fallen from grace. On 17 Aug 1988 when General Zia ul Haq died in a plane crash, there was no working political dispensation in the country. Only Senate existed in name only. There was a total vacuum. It is generally a big allure for usurpers to step in. No one overstepped. All concerned at helm, readily agreed to restore stalled democratic process. There was no pressing political pressure either. It was earnest of concern for democracy. Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Chairman Senate became President. General elections were held on time. Benazir Bhutto, head of largest winning party was asked to make government.
Benazir, young of age exuded confidence but failed to take country upward in any sphere. Failure was all encompassing. Ghulam Iahaq, armed with constitutional clause 58(2)b sacked Benazir government in Aug 1990 on charges of rampant corruption, nepotism and all pervasive miss governance. During her rule, her spouse Zardari notoriously gained tag of Mr Ten Percent. No worthwhile tears were shed rather her ouster was greeted widely. Rather than sober refection, she accused President/establishment of foul to perpetuate their control. For sake of academic discussion, let us assume that clause 58(2) b was ill intentioned but ostensibly it was aimed at check and balance. She made government under existing arrangements. She should have consciously worked harder to ward off possibility of foul play and let people be the best judge. Her regime was epitome of what President threw on her including enduring behavior of our ruling elite; leisure, pleasure and plunder. No sense of responsibility to public good. Again elections were held within stipulated time of three months. PM Nawaz Sharif was its result. After some calm, he and Ghulam Ishaq fell apart. Nawaz Sharif wanted to strip off provision of 58(2)b to gain total autonomy. President Ishaq was totally opposed to it. Mutual feud continued unabated until Ghulam Ishaq asked him to march out. More or less charges were as of Benazir’s dismissal. Method also did not differ; clause 58(2)b however, action failed to fetch a wide popular approval. Though highly questionable, a perception existed that Nawaz Sharif has performed well. Riding on public sentiments, aggrieved Nawaz knocked at Supreme Court and restored to the job.
After resumption of his office, he tried every trick to get Punjab back which he lost during the process. It intensified row between two to an extent of imminent institutional clash. Eventually COAS had to intervene who broke even compromise. Formula saw both out of their offices simultaneously. Series of ugly events proved two things. Effort to have democracy was unrelenting. People stand with their elected nominee if he works for their cause. Nawaz Sharif was lucky to have such feather in his cap though undeservingly. In reality, country also continued to nose dive under his watch. Again elections were held in Oct 1993. Benazir once again became PM but only to be removed unceremoniously in Nov 1996 by none other than his own handpicked man, President Farooq Leghari. Charges remained no less different rather assumed new and sharp edge. Public Joy over her dismissal was also no different. Nation again went to polls to make Nawaz Sharif once again PM even with heavy mandate. This time also, country continued to plumb to newer depths. Devoured with desire of absolute power, on 12 Oct 1999 he removed COAS arbitrarily from his office. To his hard luck, it boomeranged and brought end to his government.
After a break of three years, elections were held in Oct 2002. This time PM was Zafarullah Jamali, handpicked by Gen Musharraf. After a brief period, he was eased out, being complacent and inefficient however, it did not involve dissolution of assemblies. In Feb 2008, country went again for elections. This time, PPP was electoral winner. Its PM was Gillani and his master was Zardari. This time performance of their govt was as worst as never before. Every ill peaked to new heights, previously unknown. Axe fell on PM when he was convicted by Supreme Court in contempt of court for not writing letter to Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against his master; President Zardari. It was an act of sheer lunacy. Three ingredients constitutes a democratic govt. It comes through fair ballot. It is accountable to law. It is responsive to needs and aspirations of people. By this measure, all above deposed govts failed by huge margin. It was largely their own fault which cut short their tenures. Mass appeal is strength of political leadership. No one can cut them to size if it is present. Recent example is of Turkey where people came out instantly to save govt of Erdogan.
— The writer, retired Lt Col, is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.
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