Law Minister Rana Sanaullah is the face of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in the provincial assembly. Witty and wily, the assembly veteran does not hold back when it comes to political rhetoric. Yesterday, he decided to take on PML-N ‘rebel’ Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, so far the most notable defector to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.
Talking to reporters in the foyer of the Punjab Assembly building, Sanaullah said that until the morning of December 24, Hashmi had repeatedly assured the PML-N that he wasn’t quitting and wasn’t joining the PTI. But at 10am, according to Sanaullah’s account, Hashmi left Multan for Karachi in the company of a man “who everyone knows belongs to a security agency”.
The minister from Faisalabad also contested Hashmi’s claim that he had barely been allowed access to the PML-N chief. Just a few days ago, he said, Hashmi travelled with Nawaz Sharif to Larkana. “The establishment has finally trapped him,” he said.
That last blow, discrediting Hashmi’s anti-establishment credentials, was a little below the belt. Hashmi, alongside Kulsoom Nawaz, led the PML-N protests when Nawaz Sharif was overthrown by the military in 1999. During the Sharifs’ seven-year absence from the political scene while General (retired) Pervez Musharraf ruled Pakistan, Hashmi remained steadfast and loyal. Unlike other senior PML-N leaders at the time, he did not sever ties with the party for personal gain. Instead, he upped the ante and attacked the establishment with ferocity. He paid the price, spending years in prison.
The first fault-lines in Hashmi’s relationship with the Sharifs appeared when Chaudhry Nisar Ali was appointed opposition leader ahead of the 25-year party veteran. Hashmi thought Ali was keeping the seat warm for him until he was released from prison. He was clearly very popular: the PML-N fielded him at four seats in the general elections and he won three of them, while still in jail. The day he was released, the party was to arrange a celebratory procession that went all the way to Data Darbar. Hashmi’s core supporters joined the procession, but few other PML-N workers did. Hashmi was left feeling unappreciated. He was kept out of the loop, rarely seen at Raiwind where all the important party meetings were held.
Like Hashmi, Sanaullah too has suffered at the hands of the security agencies while remaining loyal to the PML-N, so one expected him to show more respect for his long-time comrade. While ugly and aggressive in attack, the minister was elegant and eloquent in fending off questions about Imran Khan’s rising popularity. He should have shown as much tact with his former party colleague.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2011.
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