After The No Holds Barred Speech At The Gujranwala Rally, Political Temperature Is Bound To Rise
With two back to back rallies, the Pakistan Democratic Movement is in full swing. In Gujranwala rally, Nawaz Sharif’s speech understandably wasn’t shown or reported on the television. His speech included naming the establishment for the theft of his public mandate and “selecting” a government that has failed the nation.
The public’s reaction was interesting to note. The crowd cheered when Sharif spoke about the soldiers on the borders who strive day and night for the country’s security but was not too charged when he blamed the DG ISI for “controlling” the courts that ousted the former PM. There was a massive outcry from the audience on Sharif’s uproar on the increasing prices. The crowd’s hot and cold reactions gave the speech a lackluster character with an Altaf Hussain quality: devoid of actual issue and highly personal. By and large, his speech was an ineffective attempt at creating an anti-establishment narrative.
The lifeless crowd had to be consistently recharged for Nawaz Sharif’s speech; it was indeed a dreary scene. Javed Hashmi and Captain Safdar’s efforts went futile; Maryam Nawaz managed to pull out some real recognition from the crowd. However, one thing I realised sitting on that container gazing unwillingly at a projector screen is that all efforts from the PML(N) will go to waste if Nawaz Sharif does not stay in the country to lead. His absence will only create a Punjabi version of the political field experience by the MQM and Altaf Hussain. The Pakistan Democratic Movement cannot move ahead without a leader. The truth is that most PML(N) leaders are simply “electables,” and a battle cry will drive them away. Few have the guts to stand their ground and truly support Nawaz Sharif’s narrative.
Further, there was no mention of Shehbaz Sharif and his supporters. Shehbaz Sharif has been making efforts for covert meetings with the establishment for reconciliation for the longest time. Through this continuous pursuance of an oddly formatted anti-establishment narrative, Nawaz Sharif is closing all doors of reconciliation for not only himself but his brother as well. A few people consider this to be a deliberate action by Nawaz Sharif as if he is adamant on drowning the entire ship along with his brother. It is possible that Shehbaz Sharif would continuously look for lifelines in hopes of reconciliation.
Speaking of Shehbaz, it is worthwhile to note that Khawaja Saad Rafique did not address the rally. I was expecting him to be stage secretary in Gujranwala. Khawaja Saad Rafique has been the top worker for PML(N) since the very start. His sacrifices have been immeasurable but he never compromised. Nawaz Sharif’s lack of investment in organic leadership such as this will prove to be disastrous. While such support is needed while furthering an “us vs them” narrative, Nawaz Sharif’s apparent lack of interest has been evident throughout the past few years—causing Khawaja Saad Rafique to turn towards Shehbaz Sharif for support and acknowledgement.
Also, let us not forget that the two main parties of the PDM are only aligned politically and not ideologically. Nor do they have the same motives. The ideological rifts are likely to surface. Gujranwala was PML(N) and Karachi was PPP. Both were not the PDM in entirety.
Khurram Dastgir kept addressing Nawaz Sharif as “Wazir-e-Azam Nawaz Sharif,” an explicit declaration of him as a leader and numero uno. Was Bilawal Bhutto Zardari comfortable with that? Of course not. His only aim for the PDM is to harness political momentum and revive his vote bank in Punjab. A candid view of these rallies and speeches makes me think that perhaps the Pakistan People’s Party has gained the most, with a new lease of life in Punjab.
Despite the shortcomings, we are witnessing public expression of things that could only be said in the drawing rooms. Those who could not have been named have been named again and again. The morning after Gujranwala, Imran Khan was forced to assert his credentials at the Tiger Force Convention. Prime Minister’s speech was his most brutal yet. It was visible that he is little more than just angry and that the gloves are off. The political atmosphere is bound to become even more tense.
Both Nawaz and Imran’s speeches show that the daggers are drawn, and it is no holds barred contest. Once again.