Nawaz Sharif caught in catch-22

Published: May 1, 2012
Nusrat Javeed

Nusrat Javeed

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz legislators walked into the National Assembly in full strength and after holding a long strategy session at 6:30 pm Monday. We presumed that they would wait for the entry of Prime Minister, who was sitting in the Senate, for putting up a disruptive show. But the minute Dr Asim stood to answer the first question that was connected to his ministry, the opposition members started to pronounce with loud shouts that after Gilani’s conviction, he was a minister no more.

Being a novice to parliamentary battles, Asim kept standing without saying a word. While he looked helplessly baffled and clueless, some experienced PPP members rushed to his seat. He was told that after putting on headphones, he could stonewall the din around him and continue with answering questions. He put the headphones which triggered more spirited desk thumping and shouting slogans from opposition benches.

The cynical heart of mine was not too impressed with the PML-N’s performance, however. After all, for many months cutting across the party divide all opposition members had been blocking the National Assembly business with piercing slogans of ‘go-Musharraf-go’ in a house elected in 2002. Instead of quitting, Musharraf discreetly established communication channels with political Maulanas of the MMA and thanks to their collaboration eventually forced both houses of our parliament to validate the military takeover of October 1999 and his continuation as an ‘elected president in military uniform.’ Shouts and brawls during parliamentary sittings, in short, do not make or break a prime minister.

Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif had two clear days to think about the checkmate-looking moves. While appearing before media to announce his intent of extracting the resignation of Gilani, for example, he could at least have managed the showing of Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Aftab Sherpao standing on his right and left. That would have told the world that all non-government parties, represented in the National Assembly, were solidly standing by him. He did commit approaching Imran Khan and Jamaat-e-Islami after many months of playing solo, without realizing that the two would now play hard to get before appearing as if joining a movement the initiative for which had already been stolen by Nawaz Sharif.

The short, two-paragraph, order that the Supreme Court delivered Thursday sounds ambiguous to non-legal minds. The use of ‘mitigation’ rather forces many to imagine as if the apex court was not too keen to seek Gilani’s disqualification after convicting him. Mian Sahib should have waited for the detailed judgment, but he preferred jumping the gun for obvious fear of Imran Khan’s growing graph.

Talking of the detailed judgment, let me also reveal that from a source that yours truly can trust blindly I have gathered that Gilani had actively been thinking of resigning, if the final and comprehensive decision clearly linked conviction with his disqualification. Most ministers and PPP legal eagles do not endorse the idea for sure, but Gilani is known for springing surprises. As the Speaker of the National Assembly of 1993-6, he had often been doing that. His firm no to approaches by Tariq Aziz for joining the PML-Q in 2004 also fell in the same category.

My sources claimed that Gilani seriously felt that his resignation after the detailed judgment would take away the building heat from Nawaz Sharif’s cause. Our attention would immediately switch to the question whether the PPP would succeed in getting his replacement elected by the National Assembly without much ado. In case, the detailed judgment remains vague or non-committal on the question of Gilani’s disqualification after conviction, the government intended to advance presentation of the next budget. So far, it had planned to present the same on May 15. In parliamentary democracies, passage of the budget is considered equal to the vote of confidence for the sitting prime minister.

Two trusted aides of Nawaz Sharif told me that from heart of his hearts their leader wants that Gilani government should present the next budget. He does not want to build momentum for Gilani’s resignation before passage of the next budget. Some people around him suspect that if Gilani is forced to resign before the unveiling of the budget by his government, Shahid Javed Burki type ‘technocrats’ may do the same and there is no guarantee that after preparing the next budget, ‘honest technocrats’ are asked to go home after holding elections. The tenure of their government can be stretched and stretched on various legitimate-looking reasons. Whatever the truth, Nawaz Sharif surely seems caught in Catch-22.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2012.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Mirza
    May 1, 2012 - 9:33AM

    Pakistan is a strange country where the SC bench cannot give clear verdict. In addition by jumping the gun NS has proved yet again that he is not a PM material. No wonder he is all alone and needs support from other rightwing parties.


  • Roflcopter
    May 1, 2012 - 9:37AM

    Sharif has nothing going for him due to his fixation on basing his political career on trash talking and being an opportunist like in his Siachen statements.
    He just spends his time waiting on PPP to do something negative and pounces on the chance to be the first to point out exactly the same thing everyone was thinking already.
    In policies he just prolongs lack of progress as long as he can just because it’s PPP trying to do it.

    Nawaz Sharif doesn’t want to win elections because he’s the most able. He just wants to beat PPP in something. That’s all he ever tries to do. No original ideas, just bratty tantrums. His whole existence revolves around other parties. Not the country.


  • AG
    May 1, 2012 - 9:49AM

    I recall IK saying in an interview to the Telegraph, ” I have the opposition on the mat. Everything they do now will backfire.” That certainly seems to be true of Nawaz Sharif and PML-N.


  • Mohammad naeem
    May 1, 2012 - 10:51AM

    true analysis of NS.
    he is now in do or die situation due to PTI popularity and PPPs.


  • Hasan Awan
    May 1, 2012 - 11:04AM

    An Addition to this article is that PTI in principle have decided that Seats of South Punjab and Multan will be given to PPP and all PTI heavy weights are considering to run elections from Lahore regions. This announcement of Shah Mehmoud and Javed Hasmhi will be another interesting development in coming days if this news will be true as they both have decided to run election campaign from Lahore in coming months. Accordingly PPP will support PTI in Lahore but contesting weak candidates and Supporting PTI heavy weights against Nawaz…
    PTI will field Imran Khan, Asad Umer, Shah Mahmoud and Javed Hashmi all from Lahore against PPP and will virtually leave PPP regions to their benefit.


  • Abrar R
    May 1, 2012 - 11:39AM


    SMQ and JH will surely contest from Multan as well. SMQ can never leave Multan .. u got to understand what Multan means to him.

    How can PTI leave south Punjab? Remember the 30 odd electables from South Punjab which joined PTI under Jahangir Tareen?

    PTI is stronger than N in south Punjab.

    And PPP supporting PTI in urband Punjab and Lahore? R u sure what ure talking about?


  • Hasan Awan
    May 1, 2012 - 12:21PM

    @Abrar R: Well my friend is in the senior circles of PTI and he told me that Shah Mahmoud is pushing for a ticket from Lahore and also Javaid Hasmhi wants the same. Shah Mahmoud is of the view that he cannot beat the Gailani’s son and PPP who got his seat from Multan but his prospects could be good from Lahore or otherwise from Sindh in Ghotki region. Let us see in coming days what will unfold but i do believe in my friend a lot. Javed Hashmi wants to have a ticket from NA-123 Lahore as he won the election from there in the past.


  • Uza Syed
    May 1, 2012 - 2:05PM

    Nawaz Sharif caught in catch-22—-yes he is! But then he is as nature made him, prone to get caught in one or other self-destructing situation. Tch, tch, tch!


  • PTI-CEC-Member
    May 1, 2012 - 5:19PM

    @Hasan Awan :

    Respectfully disagreeing, you comments or Information are nothing but fantasies, why on earth would PTI leave that zone when they know they are STRONG enough to give hard time to PPP n PMLN both. its not that PPP is going to win again and By-elections are no scale to judge what G.E will bring. Your source is weak , i am sorry to disappoint u.


    yours Truely
    PTI CEC member


  • Hasan Awan
    May 1, 2012 - 6:46PM

    @PTI-CEC-Member: I hope and i wish that your words must be true and Shah Mahmoud and Javed Hashmi will run for elections from South Punjab rather than from Upper Punjab as some of your fellow CEC members are suggesting.


  • Pakiwazi
    May 2, 2012 - 2:17AM

    @PTI-CEC-Member considering how PTI supported PPP member in by elections that were held one week ago, I wouldnt be surprised PTI is cutting a deal with PPP. I can see them giving up south punjab to PPP like minded and forcing them to help them in Lahore. That being said if its PTI vs PML-N and no PPP or very limited PPP, N league is giong to sweep the lahore region


  • Peer Sain
    May 2, 2012 - 3:01AM

    Add to that the hatred of Musharraf. Vendetta and revenge politics is not going to work. It may be his agenda but not of the people of Pakistan. Time he cooled down started thinking a new. Yesterday he spoke of solving the Karachi problem and the way he said it was he will conduct an operation on the people of Karachi. That is not going to be good for him. He must not think only for himself but try to be the leader of all people of Pakistan. He will have to rise above his narrow vision and embrace all people living in Pakistan. He has to be inclusive and not exclusive.


  • Parvez
    May 3, 2012 - 11:38PM

    It’s strange but Nawaz Shareef and the PML-N’s political maneuverings have left them looking helpless and completely out-smarted by the PPP – a sorry position indeed.


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