LAHORE: “It’s not going to be an easy job,” says Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, with the self-assurance and knowledge of a man who has seen all the inner workings of Pakistan’s complicated political arena.
He’s right – it won’t be easy. However, it will be – and already has been – interesting. The poised and collected Sadiq, 60, has been nominated by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leadership as speaker of the National Assembly, a post many see as a reward for not only defeating Imran Khan, but also for joining – and sticking with – the PML-N at a time when it was unfashionable to do.
The making of the man
Born and raised in Lahore, Sadiq graduated from the Aitchison College and later pursued commerce at the Hailey College of Punjab University. His work in Lahore’s NA-122 constituency for the last 17 years has made him a popular candidate, as evidenced by his consecutive wins in three general elections – 2002, 2008, and 2013.
This year, too, his popularity is strong and steady. After all, it was he who brought in the ‘tsunami’ in his constituency, with Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan trailing behind by around 9,000 votes..
“Imran can challenge the vote count one or 10 times – he will be disappointed on every occasion,” he says with confidence.
Bye, bye PTI
In retrospect, Sadiq’s brief stint in PTI during the ‘90s is an important part of his political journey, and one he makes no qualms about. According to him, he left due to differences with Imran.
“[Despite] being a friend, Imran never contacted me after I left his party in 1998,” he says. “He never called, he never responded to the letter I wrote to him [about my reasons to leave the party]. If he had called, maybe I would have stayed.”
Sadiq joined the Sharif brothers in 2001, three years after leaving the PTI. It was a time when the party was down and out, with its leader in exile for seven years.
“I joined the PML-N when there was no sign of its return. I did it because I was convinced of Shahbaz and Nawaz’s honesty,” he says.
He adds that if he had been interested in gaining clout, he would have joined the PML-Q, in power at the time.
“The entire Sharif family has given me respect,” he continues. “They have been kind to me. Unlike what others seem to think, Nawaz himself is always available. He is so down-to-earth, such a loving personality – you have to meet him to know what I am saying.”
Today, his loyalty of joining the PML-N brothers at a time when not many did has been rewarded. When asked why he was nominated to the post by the PML-N leadership instead of better known candidates like Chaudhry Nisar, Sadiq says his personality fits the role well.
“Someone like Chaudhry Nisar is a political person. As a leader of the opposition, he was very good as he raised issues and asked questions. As speaker, he would not have been able to talk the same way. He would have been confined to the running of the house,” he explains. “I was never one who came on TV to give statements. I work in the constituency and was part of committees.”
Ruling with a firm hand
Sadiq is well aware that he has to now tame an unruly entity. Yet, he is prepared. In one of the NA’s first sessions, Ayaz threatened to throw out raucous backbenchers if they did not maintain calm.
“Rowdiness is part of the parliament,” he says. “[During Musharraf’s time], we would climb on the desks and not let him work.”
“Ayaz Sadiq is a well respected name in the assembly,” says an MNA, requesting anonymity. “He has the experience, and he is a calm person. He will be great at this job.” Sadiq, too, is sure that he will be fair, that he will do a good job.
“Staying neutral is difficult but not impossible. Fairness is very important and I am confident that I will be successful. During the budget session, I allowed the opposition parties more than their prescribed time because it is their right to criticise and talk about the budget,” he says. “Fehmida Mirza has set very high standards and I hope to match up to them.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2013.