THE way NAB unravelled allegations of money laundering to India by the former Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif based on a news item that appeared in a newspaper about four months back raised many eye-brows about the motive behind such a move at this belated stage when the elections are just around the corner. When one looks at this episode in the backdrop of developments on the political landscape of the country including the disqualification of the former Prime Minister as a result of the Panama case, fall of the Balochistan government, the detestable horse-trading in the election for senate seats and the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Senate, the defections from the PML-N and meddling in the affairs of the PML (N) government in the centre and Punjab, it gives the impression that a well orchestrated move was on to malign the PML-N leader to scuttle the chances of the party winning the next elections. The regrettable aspect of the entire episode is that the major political parties like the PPP and PTI, to a great extent are also responsible for what is unfolding on the political horizon of the country. But PPP joining hands with undemocratic forces is rather unusual and ominous to say the least.
Nevertheless, in spite of the attempts to denigrate PML (N) and its leadership, the fact remains that the party has a good record on the basis of which it can reclaim the franchise of the people. There is a verifiable and irrefutable evidence of the fact that the PML (N) government in spite of egregious circumstances, resource constraints, huge expenditure on the fight against terrorism and political instability fomented by its opponents worked with unruffled focus in reviving the economy which was almost on the verge of collapse and even faced the prospect of default on IMF loans. When the PML (N) government assumed power the economy was almost stagnant at 3% GDP growth rate and the budgetary deficit which is the mother of all economic ills stood at 8.8%. The GDP growth rate has been enhanced to 5.3% and the budgetary deficit pulled down to 4.4% though it has gone slightly above beyond 5% recently. And above all the energy crisis which badly affected the industrial as well as agricultural sectors and caused inconvenience to millions of house-holds across the country has been surmounted to a great extent and the country is fast heading towards becoming an energy surplus country.
The country is heading for next general elections and the incumbent government would be completing its mandated tenure on May 31. Non-partisan and independent political analysts believe that the performance of the PML (N) has surely paid dividends in the form of ever growing confidence and support for it, which was amply reflected in the wins in the by-elections. According to the statistics the PML (N) won 54 by-elections including seventeen NA and 37 Provincial seats since 2013. It even snatched NA-182 (Sahiwal) NA-154 (Lodhran) and PP-7 from PTI which it had won in the general elections. These developments amply demonstrate that the people of Pakistan have rejected the politics of violence, chaos and sit-ins on which the PTI remained focused instead of delivering to the masses and contributing positively to the process of legislation designed to introduce reforms in the system of governance.
It also indicates the damage that the PTI has inflicted on itself because of its negative brand of politics mired in impulsive propensity of its leader to churn out unsubstantiated allegations against the political opponents and the state institutions obsessed with the syndrome of self-righteousness. The defections being orchestrated from other parties and their joining the PTI are not going to have much of an effect as people would not vote for those who sell their mandate for personal gains. The majority of the surveys conducted by credible poll agencies also maintain that the PML (N) is likely to win the next general elections if they are held on schedule without any intervention and engineering of the electoral results. The decisions by the SC to disqualify Nawaz Sharif, declaring him ineligible to remain President of the Party do not seem to have done any damage to the popularity of the party. It has instead added credibility to the narrative of Nawaz Sharif. He has gained tremendously politically as is evident from the results of by-election in Chakwal and Lodhran.
It is believed that even if Nawaz Sharif and his family members were convicted in the NAB cases being tried in the Ehtsab court, it would have no adverse impact on the fortunes of the party and it may even get a boost from such a scenario. Another factor going in the favour of PML (N) is that in spite of overt and covert efforts to foment desertions from the party it stands united behind Nawaz Sharif. PML (N) win in Senate elections also testifies to this reality as the party has won according to its expectations. In view of the obtaining ground realities, all those political elements which have been trying to dislodge the incumbent government through non-democratic means will have to look for other machinations and strategies to pursue their objectives.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.