Will Maryam and son connect with common man?

Do they only want to preserve their legacy that brings both money and power?

Durdana Najam January 07, 2023
The writer is a public policy analyst based in Lahore. She tweets @durdananajam

Maryam Nawaz Sharif has been made senior vice president and chief organiser of the PML-N which had parted ways with Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, who took exception to the Sharif family’s independent decision to leave Pakistan in 1999, on a 10-year self-exile agreement with Pervez Musharraf, the then chief of the army staff. After installing the third martial law in the country, Musharraf had booked Nawaz, then prime minister of Pakistan, and his family in a series of litigations.

Like many of his predecessors and successors, the former Army Chief and President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, wanted his Prime Minister henpecked to the army. When Nawaz tried to assert and stopped some decisions that Musharraf had taken, such as the Kargil operation, and welcomed in Lahore then Prime Minister of India Atal Bihar Vajpayee despite Musharraf’s disapproval, the army went on to its usual formula of cutting the civilians to their size. Nawaz did not take the blowback in stride. However, his attempt to change the command through a backdoor conspiracy failed miserably —resulting in another martial law that lasted for eight years. To date, Pakistan is collecting the debris of Musharraf’s decisions in the spectres of terrorism, depleted energy resources and de-internationalisation of the Kashmir issue.

Nawaz is living in the UK with his family, of which only his daughter Maryam is interested in pursuing her family’s political legacy. Nawaz’s two sons have not only surrendered their nationalities but have perhaps decided never to return to Pakistan to face the courts. Though, chances are that they, too, would get away with the litigations, like their sister, cousins, uncle Shehbaz and other party members. It seems that the trust deficit between the Army and the Sharif clan have not bridged completely to persuade Nawaz and his sons, declared absconders by Pakistani courts, to expect a fair trial.

A large population of Pakistan, mostly youth, blames PML-N — as well as the PPP — for Pakistan’s economic, social and political decadence. However, in recent years, more so after the ouster of Imran Khan’s government in April 2022, the establishment — a combo of all those institutions and individuals in a position to twist laws and the constitution —has been openly criticised for muddying Pakistan’s political spectrum, with no other purpose but to expand its share in the power pie.

As for the PPP, it has turned into an adopted orphan. In return to retain power in Sindh, Asif AIi Zardari knots and unknots the battle rope as dictated. Be it pulling the rug from under the feet of Balochistan’s legitimate government, tampering with the Senate elections or initiating the vote of no-confidence against Imran Khan’s elected government, Zardari is the one sought after. When Raheel Sharif was the Army Chief, he had a briefcase full of cases against Zardari and his party clan. Raheel Sharif was particularly concerned about financial terrorism. He unravelled crimes the PPP and the MQM had allegedly committed in Karachi that helped terrorists financially while keeping Karachi and other major cities of Sindh in a shambles. But then, the establishment’s affair with Imran Khan and their revengeful mood against the PML-N took precedence over law and Pakistan’s security. In due course, as a matter of routine, the establishment, again upset with the civilians, pulled the plug on their poster boy with the complete assistance of the PPP, aka Zardari.

Nawaz, however, chose to fight it out, but not without compromising on the party’s ideological stands.

Is Maryam and her son serious about changing the fate of Pakistan or do they only want to preserve their legacy that brings both money and power? For any serious change to happen, the duo will have to go beyond big-ticket projects and connect with the common man. Otherwise, it will be business as usual.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 7th, 2023.

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