Are Govt And Establishment Still On The Same Page?
Awais Babar discusses what Nawaz Sharif’s three consecutive bails from the courts mean for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s relationship with the establishment whose support he is said to enjoy.
The journey to come on the ‘same page’ formally started back in 2014 with the historic sit-in by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The chain of events over the past few months signify that the fellow travelers may have fallen apart from each other at some point.
It also seems that the horse has finally shrugged off the harness, leaving the cart to splinter into uneven pieces. Unfortunately for PTI though, the film seems to have no intermission, leaving them no opportunity to settle its affairs. Nawaz Sharif’s three consecutive bails have definitely turned the tide. Government is unlikely to take the responsibility for Nawaz Sharif’s health. Islamabad High Court has granted bail to the former PM for 8 weeks on medical grounds. He has been asked to approach the provincial government for extension in the bail if his health does not improve after 8 weeks.
The downside of this late approach on the government’s part is that even though Nawaz Sharif is likely to remain outside jail from now onwards, if anything did happen to him (God forbid), the government will be in extreme hot water for the enervation they have caused to their leader behind bars.
How did the government from ‘the law should be same for everyone’ descended down to ‘best wishes’ to Nawaz Sharif for his health? Not too long ago, the PM and the cabinet had propagated that Nawaz Sharif was getting VIP treatment in jail. Every time a member of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League – N (PML-N) would get relief from the courts, it was followed by a sarcastic statement pointed towards the courts by the adversaries in government that rich people get relief from courts whereas the poor do not.
“As soon as I go back to Pakistan, I shall remove the AC plug from Nawaz Sharif’s cell”, said the PM in his address to Pakistani community in the US in July. Not to mention a letter addressed to IG Prison Punjab from Punjab Home Department on the 17th of July this year, “the following directions of Prime Minister have been intimated for implementation and report “No preferential treatment be given to the criminals and money launderers in the prison in Punjab’.”
So why is the preferential treatment being given now? Why are the offers of air ambulances, the availability of best doctors, all the necessary support are being made to the former PM, why now? Probably because they are not on the same page any longer.
A significant factor that has mutated the moods of the government is the deterioration of Nawaz Sharif’s health. Having gotten its head around the real situation and the deep trouble government is immersed in, it is suddenly afraid of the sea of remonstrating devotees of PML-N, God forbid anything happens to its mover and shaker. Add to these devotees the angry public which feels deceived by the whole regime. In addition, the damage done to the long immersed Kashmir emotion since its forced annexation to India almost 3 months ago coupled with our ineptitude in this regard.
Not to mention the vast majority of population which relies on favourable business environment for its bread and butter and the fact that all they can afford now is bread.
Not just Nawaz Sharif, the government seems to have changed its demeanour towards almost every rival, or perhaps their own inefficiencies and ill-will compelled them to do so. At some point, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, the JUI Chief was being laughed at, then threatened that he wouldn’t be allowed to the capital, but was then invited for talks, why?
On Saturday, the government spokesperson Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan tweeted that Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, the JUI Chief ought to put aside his ego owing to the grave challenges faced by Pakistan in present circumstances and that it is the need of time that all should unite towards making Pakistan a progressive state. Since when did PTI need the help of ‘diesel’, ‘money launderers’ and/or ‘Modi lovers’?
The main character in all this game now is Nawaz Sharif, primarily because he comes from the most populated province of Punjab and secondarily because putting all prejudices aside governance under him has relatively been well than all his peers. This perception is reinforced due to poor performance by PTI.
The main reason Nawaz Sharif has been granted two consecutive bails is that no one wants to take the responsibility for what is going to happen if God forbid anything happens to him; especially now that his health is quickly deteriorating. This is not about preferential treatment as being suggested by the analysts such as Irshad Bhatti who have done masters in sarcasm with distinction.
There are potentially four references against Nawaz Sharif; Avenfield, Al-Azizia, Flagship and the more recent, Chaudhry Sugar Mills (Investigation stage). It appears now though that in reality there is no real case against Nawaz Sharif. By ‘real’, I mean a case which could ultimately result in a criminal liability and hence a conviction. The conviction of seven years in the Avenfield Reference as of now stands suspended by the Honourable Islamabad High Court.
In the Flagship reference, he was acquitted but was convicted in the Al-Aziza reference. However, Judge Arshad Malik’s leaked video has potentially rendered the future of this conviction very bleak. The fourth, Chaudhry Sugar Mills has not become a reference yet, whereas owing to the dramatic happenings in the past week it is not likely to become one either.
The overall trend of all these cases seems to be going Nawaz’s way despite the extreme pressure on courts, prosecution as well as his defence attorneys. All this but unfortunately for PML-N, its leader’s health seems to be in perils.
The fact that every entity wants to absolve itself from any responsibility whatsoever if anything happens to the former premier is obvious from the remarks of the Honourable Justice High Court Islamabad Justice Athar Minallah that “if the government will oppose the request for bail, then [the court] will dismiss the request”.
Earlier, putting the ball in the government’s court, the honourable judge further remarked, “However, if something happens to Nawaz Sharif this time, the onus will be on NAB and the government.” The Honourable Justice was well aware of the aftermath God forbid anything happened to a political leader; the likelihood that the so called free media would blame it all on the courts as the real culprits of such like happenings continue to remain unseen.
Somebody has to be blamed in events like these so that there are no remnants left behind ultimately causing an uprising. To say the least, these were landmark remarks by the Honourable Justice. The prosecution i.e., the government and NAB threw the ball in the nature’s court by taking no responsibility whatsoever of Nawaz’s Sharif’s well being and did not oppose the bail.
The government is all alone now, completely surrounded by friends as well as foes. To their own detriment, the government’s whole focus since the day it ruled the roost was to purport themselves to be the sincerest and most sought-after government ever to have come in Pakistan.
However, a country of more than 200 million people demands much more than assurances and hubba-hubba! Most of all, this ostensibly salubrious dream became the big boss’s worst nightmare of all times. Henceforth, they are likely to prefer a relatively less servile leadership than it ended up producing in the form of PTI.
Now that Nawaz Sharif has been granted bail on the 26th in the Al-Azizia Mills case, and on the very next day Maulana to embark on his expedition to overthrow the government, it seems that the days of the incumbent government are ‘now’ numbered. It is yet to see the level of resilience the government displays on its own without much help from the backyard against a stronger opposition having a public support. A support which has grown over the time due to sheer inefficacy on part of the government.
First and foremost, the government pushed the citizens against the wall by its amateurish decision making since the very beginning. It immediately invited criticism from almost all quarters by making uncanny appointments on the most important of positions; Usman Buzdar as the CM Punjab? Then it pushed the opposition against the wall and stopped at nothing. It went as far as looking into what they were doing inside the prisons, their diet, AC, heater, Nihari, etc.
The government did not however push the establishment against the wall. Notwithstanding that, it failed to impress them and did nothing to improve their first impression which was a horrifying one, perhaps leaving the latter no choice but to renege on the understanding it had with the government.
It would not be wrong to conclude that at this moment in time it is the government which has been pushed against the wall. It has inadvertently incarcerated itself, having made no friends whatsoever and unfortunately for them also failed to strengthen the friendships they once had.
Henceforth, we are unlikely to hear statements like , ‘we are on the same page’. It rather more likely that the establishment will disenfranchise the current regime before the affairs, in fact their affairs get completely out of control.