Uneasy lies the head…

 Perhaps some introspection needed?



These are interesting times. It is almost surreal: Sharif sent packing by the apex court months before his time as prime minister was up and Ishaq Dar, close consort and virtual deputy prime minister, slowly but surely being stripped of his powers.

Is it akin to the Islamic phrase,’ mukafaat e amal’? The cardinal rule of reaping what you sow–a universal maxim in all religions–can surely be applied to Sharif here.

However, the former prime minister does not seem to feel the same way. He thinks he has done no wrong and has been unjustly punished by the ubiquitous establishment with the apex court acting as its handmaiden.

PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, also in Lahore with his prodigal Bilawal Bhutto in tow, reckons that Sharif has finally met his comeuppance. He has refused to lend support to the ousted prime minister like in the 2014 dharna.

According to him the Sharif dynasty is finally at its nadir. In reality, however, Zardari feels personally let down. He felt abandoned when, as prime minister, Sharif even refused to lift a finger for the PPP co-chairperson’s incarcerated friend Dr Asim.

But, as Zardari has himself admitted in a recent press conference, in politics everything is possible. Hence, despite protestations to the contrary, circumstances might bring the PML-N and the PPP closer at some future juncture.

For the time being both parties have decided to go their separate ways. Nonetheless, they have a common enemy in the form of the PTI chief Imran Khan whom Zardari loathes and dismisses as not even being a politician. While Sharif thinks that the PTI chief is a mere demagogue who has done more harm than good.

Nonetheless, as the former prime minister has himself admitted, the Khan since the very day the PML-N government assumed power in mid-2013 has hounded them–first with the dharna and later by his relentless pursuit of Panamagate cases aginst the Sharif family.

The PTI chief, while celebrating his ‘victory’ in the form of the prime minister’s ouster, recently roared at a public rally in Islamabad that now it is the turn of Zardari to face the music a la the Sharifs. Incidentally, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has already started day-to-day hearings of a reference against Zardari.

Sharif, in a recent interview with the BBC, has made some interesting observations about his relations with the generals during the past decades. Being thrice the prime minister, he claims that he has had ideal relations with military chiefs, except a few.

History speaks otherwise. As prime minster he had an uneasy equation with General Aslam Beg. His successor General Asif Nawaz Janjua and the prime minister were at loggerheads. Janjua told me a month before his death owing to a heart attack that Sharif was trying to buy his corps commanders. Had Janjua lived, in all probability, we would have witnessed another martial law.

General Waheed Kaakar as COAS made both Sharif and President Ghulam Ishaq resign to end their endemic squabbling. New elections were held with Moeen Qureshi as an imported caretaker prime minister. The dice was, however, heavily loaded against Sharif. He lost the elections to Benazir Bhutto

General Jahangir Karamat was made to resign by Sharif during his second stint as prime minister just a few months before his term as COAS was to expire. As for Karamat’s successor the commando General Pervez Musharrf, again Sharif had very uneasy relations.

Perhaps the Kargil misadventure was the last straw. The prime minister brokered a ceasefire courtesy the US president Bill Clinton. Contrary to the perception that Kargil was an unmitigated disaster, Musharrf assiduously insisted that Sharif turned victory into defeat by dashing to Washington.

As for the present military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who was Sharif’ s personal choice, he had a virtually trouble free seven month stint. However, the only exception was Dawngate.

The Dawn leaks did not happen on General Bajwa’s watch. Nonetheless, Sharif unnecessarily procrastinated in implementing its findings in letter and spirit.

The Dawngate findings would have landed those found guilty in big trouble. The original recommendations of trying the accused under the Official Secrets Act 1923 were potentially disastrous. This was changed to a relatively minor penalty of removal of the guilty from their posts.

The prime minister’s blue-eyed principal secretary, by leaking factually incorrect information, caused consternation amongst the khakis. The subsequent tweet by the DG ISPR (inter services public relations) Major General Asif Ghafoor unnecessarily upset Sharif who, just like in the past, made it into an ego issue.

He politely asked the COAS to withdraw the offending tweet. That was done. But Sharif was not happy. He wanted the DG ISPR’s scalp as well as an unqualified apology from him.

This was not going to happen as General Bajwa had already stuck his neck out by withdrawing the offending tweet. This incident perhaps left a bad taste in the mouth amongst the military leadership. The perception that Sharif cannot get along with the military gained traction as a result of this episode.

The BBC interviewer should have perhaps rephrased his question to the former prime minister: why does the military fail to get along with any elected prime minster of the country? General Zia ul Haq sacked his own hand-picked prime minster, Mohammad Khan Junejo, perhaps because he succeeded at his mandated job much to the discomfort of the wily dictator who increasingly saw Junejo as a challenge to his authority.

Benazir did not get along with General Aslam Beg and was twice dismissed by presidents with the active connivance of the generals and dutifully approved by the apex court. More recently Zardari had very uneasy relations with General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Perhaps he survived as the military was no longer interested in an overt takeover.

The present military chief is right in observing that all state institutions should work within their constitutional limits. Sharif says the same thing.

But did the former prime minister walk the talk when in power? Cronyism and working with a cabal at the expense of his cabinet and the parliament was the hallmark of his regime.

His former interior minister and now a born gain dissident, Nisar Ali khan, did not mince his words the other day. Speaking at the Central Working Committee of the PML-N, summoned to rubber stamp Sharif’s choice of acting president of the party, Nisar blamed sycophancy and cronyism as the malaise afflicting Sharif.

Despite being ousted the same culture pervades Jati Umra. If there is any introspection post his ouster, the former prime minister’s actions speak otherwise.


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