A Week PTI Would Like To Forget
The one-week-long political drama staged by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) led by the Prime Minister himself was clearly for the benefit of the party’s supporters at large, but by the end of the fateful week it were the supporters themselves who were seen to have been rendered a stunning body blow.
Between Friday last (Nov. 8) and last Friday (Nov. 15), these very core supporters of the PTI went through a gamut of emotions starting with elation and ending in total frustration and disillusionment.
They had felt elated and their spirits high in the seventh heaven when they heard their leader declare that he had decided to allow Nawaz Sharif to go abroad for medical treatment on humanitarian grounds. He explained, for the benefit of his supporters that his decision was not the result of a deal or a dheel but was based on the report of the two doctors of Shaukat Khanum Hospital whom he had sent to find out the actual state of health of NS and who on return had confirmed that health-wise former Prime Minister was in a state of ‘touch and go’, therefore, the humanitarian considerations.
So far so good. Not only his supporters but even the nation at large welcomed PM Imran Khan’s gesture which, as a consequence, perched him on high moral ground and earned for him immense political goodwill as well.
And the glee of PTI supporters knew no bounds when last Friday the cabinet subcommittee comprising law minister Faroogh Naseem and Special Assistance to the PM on Asset Recovery Unit (ARU), Shahzad Akbar, both ‘qualified’ lawyers came up with the indemnity idea which required PMLN chief, Shahbaz Sharif to sign a bond of Rs. 7-7.5 billion for getting the name of NS removed from Exit Control List (ECL).
Additional conditions imposed in the memorandum issued by the subcommittee said the bond money was required to be physically verified and that the government of the country where NS would be going would be officially informed about the details of the terms of his departure from Pakistan as well as that of the cases against him.
During the press conference the two lawyers addressed on Friday last it was revealed that the amount mentioned in the indemnity bond was almost equal to the amount NS is alleged to have siphoned off from the official kitty as per the two cases in which he was held guilty by the NAB court.
Clearly, the idea of indemnity bond itself and its details were too offending for NS and SS including the PMLN. Also, the clause that the bond money needed to be physically verified indicated that even if the bond was signed in its ‘original’ form it would still take days before a final decision could be taken on whether or not to remove NS’ name from the ECL.
The entire game plan smacked of extreme low cunning: health of NS being in a precarious condition, the Sharifs would have no option but to sign the bond and; the amount mentioned in the bond would enable the ruling PTI to claim that it had required the stolen money. And if SS went to courts the family could be accused of playing politics with the life of NS which the PTI did with gusto as SS went to Lahore High Court. The PM himself tried to add to his Party’s narrative by announcing that had it been his brother, he would have signed the bond without losing a single minute and taken him abroad for treatment.
The game plan was lapped up by the PTI supporters as a master stroke and the final realization of Imran Khan’s commitment that he would not give the corrupt the so-called NRO and would ensure that the money they had allegedly ‘looted’ from the government kitty would be recovered from them.
The two-man subcommittee was reportedly constituted after the majority of the cabinet members is said to have voted last Tuesday for a scheme that would ensure that NS would return home after treatment to face the pending corruption cases against him.
The continued failure of the NAB to process successfully the high profile cases seemed to have rendered desperate a government which had come into power riding on the back of the promise that there would no NRO come what may and the money the corrupt are alleged to have ‘looted’ from government coffers would be recovered without fail. Therefore, the entire rigmarole.
Here is where the Prime Minister and his cabinet misread the whole situation, especially the obstinacy of NS and committed a Herculean blunder. NS is said to have agreed to go abroad only when his mother requested him to, otherwise he had made it very clear that he would not leave Pakistan come what may. So, to offer such offending conditions to such a person was not only a bad move but out rightly foolish.
Had the government allowed NS to go abroad without any condition, the PMLN and its leadership would have been obliged forever to the ruling Party and would have been forced to go on the defensive politically in the government-opposition equation. And the PTI would have reaped immense political benefits, as a consequence. And in case NS did not return, it would have only harmed the PMLN’s politics even decimated it completely. And by confiscating his properties and bank accounts the government would have more than recovered the allegedly ‘looted’ money.
Instead, in its foolhardiness, the government chose to play absurd games and found itself at the end of the week at the receiving end. The Lahore High Court order that NS could go abroad by giving a simple undertaking in writing that he would return home after the treatment has caused the government to lose face politically as well as morally. And it would perhaps take the Party’s core supporters some time, if at all, to recover from the body blow the court order had dealt them.
The government finding itself in a corner seems to be ill-advisedly trying to fight back instead of controlling the damage. It is continuing to use a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ concerning the court order and painting the PMLN in black. By their utterances they are still trying to buck up the spirits of their supporters giving the impression that NS and his Party have actually lost politically by not signing the Rs. 7-7.5b indemnity bond!!!
And it continues to ignore what its allies in the government, the PMLQ, the MQM, the GDA, the BNP (Mengal) and the Chairman of Senate, Sadiq Sanjrani had kept advising the ruling Party. PMLQ and PMLN are not on talking terms. MQM and GDA are no friend of NS and Sanjrani has survived a recent no-confidence motion moved against him by the opposition including the PMLN. So, why this out of the blue opposition to the PTI’s NS policy?
Perhaps the most frustrated person in Pakistan today is the PM himself. That is why perhaps he has taken a two-day off to meditate and contemplate a new governance strategy. As a first step, he should show the door to a number of cabinet ministers, especially the law minister, his special assistants for ARU as well as information adviser and his Attorney General.
Interesting, it was the permanent establishment led by you-know-who which NS had targeted since the day he was made the target by the former following the publication of the ‘Dawnleaks’. But it appears as if last week the establishment after seeing the writing on the wall quietly withdrew itself from harm’s way and offered the PTI and Imran to the Sharifs to play politics with.
The author is a senior journalist and editor.