Go Nawaz Sharif, go

Published: July 26, 2014
The writer is a professor at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at LUMS

The writer is a professor at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at LUMS

Currently, there is an array of political forces, big and small, out to get Nawaz Sharif only a year into his five-year mandate. Does this agenda carry the potential of becoming an agitation? One needs to analyse the content of the political discourse used during the PAT’s protestations against the brutal police action against its workers, the PTI’s rallies in Faisalabad and Bahawalpur and its announcement for launching an agitation after Eid and the joint declaration of the APC held on June 29. Is there a class content of the current move, i.e., the working classes getting together against the rich? The answer is no. Is there a sectoral content then, whereby the rural sector — from the farmer lobby at one end to the landless tenant at the other — has stood up against the urban sector? Again, the answer is no.

What about the ethnic nature of the conflict? After all, Nawaz Sharif’s power base lies in Punjab, while other provinces feel alienated in the perspective of the perceived preeminence of that province. But the patterns of leadership currently arraigned against the PML-N government — Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri, the Chaudhary brothers and various Lilliputian co-travellers — also belong to Punjab. This is then not an anti-Punjab line-up. Nor is it understandable in terms of the left vs right. The leftovers of the left — such as the PPP and the ANP — are not demonstrating against the ‘rightist’ PML-N. Instead, it is an intra-right phenomenon. The movement is led by ultra-right of the ilk of the PTI and the Islamic right of the type of the PAT among various others — many swearing loyalty to the army.

This is also not a fight between ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ in terms of lifestyle or morality (such as between Musharraf and Zia). Both the PML-N and the PTI firmly belong to the conservative camp. The last quarter of a century has shown that ‘liberals’ in the political domain are a dying breed. Is it then a secular opposition against an Islamic government, or alternatively, an Islamic opposition against a secular government? Parties such as the PTI and the PML-Q, with the MQM on the sidelines, have no profile as either secular or Islamic parties. Religion is not the hot point of the current discourse despite the Tahirul Qadri factor.

What about the revolutionary content of the narrative? Qadri wants to bring about revolution. So do Imran Khan, Altaf Hussain and various other political leaders. Obviously, it is neither a communist revolution nor an Islamic revolution that they are hankering after. The word ‘revolution’ has been too often profaned to carry any meaning anymore. Such hollow revolutionism is repeatedly used for struggle against the ‘system’. There is an outcry for change in the system out in the street and in the media. However, the ‘system’ remains undefined. It is most probably not the capitalist system that Imran Khan, Qadri and others want to change.

Others point to the ‘colonial system’ as the real target of criticism. However, there has been no express commitment to dismantling state institutions in mainstream politics. As a continuation of this theme, many from the religious right want to do away with the ‘secular’ system, e.g., the legal machinery, the banking system and the higher education system. However, jargon against secularism is not part of the present discourse. Indeed, it is the ‘corrupt system’, allegedly presided over by Nawaz Sharif and before him Asif Zardari, which is most often the target of anger. This is tricky. The prevalent system of law and justice, police and magistracy, administrative departments and public corporations, parliamentary committees for oversight functions and bureaucracy, is akin to the systems of the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In terms of institutional design, it is among the most advanced systems of rule. But a plethora of other factors — social ties, cultural norms, customary justice systems, caste-based loyalties, nepotism, patron-client relations and other primordial loyalties — overshadow the provisions of procedural and substantive law. Pakistan’s ‘modern’ state system is under extreme pressure from ‘tradition’. That has led to non-delivery of services and underhand dealings. Corruption is a way of bypassing the system, not the system itself. Shady claims of eliminating corruption in 90 days insult the nation’s intelligence.

What is the way out of the current political mess? The checklist of ingredients of democracy points, first and foremost, to the trust in the prevalent democratic system. There is no space for a totalist agenda of change. There can be only incremental change. Parliament’s pivotal rule cannot be ignored, as it has been so often in Pakistan. Democracy in Western countries transformed the ‘voice’ of the people into their ‘exit’ from the street by way of entry of their representatives into Parliament through elections and thus to their ‘disengagement’ from direct involvement in the system of rule, i.e., from mob-ocracy. ‘Voice’, ‘exit’ and ‘disengagement’ remain the cornerstones of the edifice of democratic governance.

In one year, the PTI, the PML-Q and smaller ‘parliamentary’ utterly failed to initiate legislation in parliament, for example, on electoral reform, thus moving beyond the Twentieth Amendment, engage fellow legislators in a debate on policy such as energy or trade relations with India or the security situation, or even deliberate their own position on policy matters. Minority parties in the opposition typically experience feelings of irrelevance for day-to-day governance during the tenure of an incumbent government, e.g., the Congress in India after the elections and the Labour Party in the UK. However, they do not wreck the system of parliamentary democracy itself by cutting down the government’s tenure. Respect for mandate is supreme in democracy.

That explains the PTI’s strategy of rendering the results of the 2013 elections suspect in the public eye. It failed to do so after the elections because the nation had largely accepted the results. The party used a series of other issues to launch a movement — the US drone attacks, negotiations with the Taliban, price hike, corruption, IDPs — in a desperate attempt to stay afloat. The spectre of Qadri stealing the show has now led Imran Khan back to the issue of election rigging. Four years to the next election are unacceptable to his boundless ambition.

The nation is bigger than Nawaz Sharif. So is democracy. Unending street politics of certain political parties led by reckless politicians creates disorder and instability. It hurts the nation and the system of democratic rule. The scale of representation in Parliament as endorsed by the people is the only measure of power in society.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (28)

  • Xman
    Jul 26, 2014 - 12:18AM

    Balance and equilibrium is the key to healthy politics. It’s unfortunate that the so called educated supporters of Mr. IK don’t realise that. Probably this part of the sub continent has been very unlucky for not having a taste for peaceful yet resolute resistance with a long term vision.


  • Sarmad
    Jul 26, 2014 - 12:53AM

    Interesting manipulation of the developments. You say the scale of representation in Parliament as endorsed by the people is the only measure of power in society? Naive, aren’t we. It’s the unabashed tilting of scales that is the sole issue here. Just look at the members of our parliament. Do you not see businessmen, fuedals, landlords, industrialists in droves?


  • Hamood
    Jul 26, 2014 - 1:02AM

    The writer started his article with a flawed statement “Currently, there is an array of political forces, big and small, out to get Nawaz Sharif only a year into his five-year mandate”. Dear writer Nawaz Sharif does not have a 5 year mandate. Currently they are hiding behind stay orders regarding vote recounting because they know they came into power through rigging.


  • Malveros
    Jul 26, 2014 - 1:32AM

    I commend the writer for his objective analysis. PTI and PAT are two sides of the same coin. Both are opportunistic and power hungry. Solution is Nawaz Shareef should offer Deputy Prime Minister slot to TUQ and Imran Khan on rotational basis for the next four years. Maybe this will pacify these power hungry opportunists.


  • saad
    Jul 26, 2014 - 2:51AM

    My God!! .. the writer is so Ignorant !!! ..

    two examples are below

    “It failed to do so after the elections because the nation had largely accepted the results”

    people themselves came out in protest of rigging .. so they did not accept the result. after the video leaks it would be stupid to imagine that the results were accepted.

    “The spectre of Qadri stealing the show has now led Imran Khan back to the issue of election rigging”

    This was PTI Stance since beginning, they tried all possible means to get it done without street power but now after a year of no intent by PMLN they have to resort to street power to do so.

    If Imran had come out the second day of elections ,, these same people would have criticized him.


  • Ghulam Ali
    Jul 26, 2014 - 3:00AM

    The author has blindly ignored the factors which forced the opposition parties to launch anti government movement. He also seems ignorant of the fact that democracy is based on free and fair elections. The 2013 elections were massively rigged. Government could addressed opposition’s concerns by verifying votes with thumb impression in four constituencies,. The author should be awarded Medal of Metro Bus for his support to the Sharif Dynasty.


  • sabi
    Jul 26, 2014 - 4:17AM

    Recent guard of honor to prime minister by the genrels has punctured the -march-wagon.They can go home now .
    PTI can not control 3000 sanitary workers in KPK let alone rest of the provincial machinary.They are losers.


  • Kamran
    Jul 26, 2014 - 4:19AM

    Go Nawaz Sharif Go !! This is a positive statement of encouragement!! Pakistanis don’t understand that if you want to say a negative chant it would be, “Out Nawaz Sharif, Out” It’s funny how Pakistanis turn the English language on it’s head.


  • Jul 26, 2014 - 6:06AM

    Pretty shabby article by a dwarf.
    Even Snow White with the help of “dehati aurats”
    would kick Mr. Waseem out of the forest,..er..Lahore?
    Rawalpindi,..er Islo? Where is this LUMS?


  • observer
    Jul 26, 2014 - 9:33AM

    Go Nawaz Sharif, go

    Why does this sound like, ‘Come Raheel Sharif, Come’


  • Kaleem Ullah
    Jul 26, 2014 - 10:54AM

    The writer is a professor at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at LUMS

    and I am sure 95% of commentators have lesser expertise in subject than him, yet calling him naive, ignorant and other such titles. That’s the problem of online forums despite the moderation. Please, Show some respect.


  • editor
    Jul 26, 2014 - 1:32PM

    Agree with Kaleemullah…but then again this is the way PTI trolls deal with everyone…having no clue about how accomplished Professor Waseem is as an academic.


  • arshad
    Jul 26, 2014 - 2:11PM

    in my opinion the current fiasco is characteristic of opposition politics in a single party majority government. This is exactly where democracy becomes “tyranny of the majority” rather than a system of inclusive politics. the opposition is, very meaningless in this government. Such attempts to forge almost lunatic alliances are desperate attempts for the opposition to win some relevance.
    It is indeed true that the nation has voted for nawaz sharif and (very unfortunately) accepted the results. This is sometimes an astonishing statement for urban pakistani’s reading this articles as they forget about what the rest 90% of pakistan looks like and lives like. It is very unfortunate that the poor of this country do somehow see nawaz as representing their interests, though even to a marginal extent.
    The current government has established its rule on coercion, but at the same time, on as much of consent produced through various mechanims in the pre and post election political discourse. At the same time, the discourse of the so called revolutionary forces is fragmented beyond any possibility of classification.


  • Aysha M
    Jul 26, 2014 - 3:10PM

    What about the revolutionary content of the narrative? Qadri wants to bring about revolution. So do Imran Khan, Altaf Hussain and various other political leaders.

    Not really sure if that is quite accurate, what I hear altaf Hussain say, is reforms. He considers reforms in the national interest and not politics of confrontation. Professor Saheb might like to revisit that


  • Paksolider
    Jul 26, 2014 - 3:17PM

    R U people out of mind, Do you want to break our country into pieces.. Do you want civil war, Do you want that taliban and IS militants should take our country.. Yes because you people sitting in foreing has foreign agenda…


  • Faheem
    Jul 26, 2014 - 4:19PM

    Dear Sir, You are absoultely wrong, either your are unaware of PRI’s stance and what has been happening over the past year, or you are just too good a supporter of PML N that you had to hide facts.


  • Malveros
    Jul 26, 2014 - 4:55PM

    @Aysha M:
    What has Altaf Hussain brought to Karachi with his politics ? Answer – Ethnic Hatred And Divisions.


  • Aysha M
    Jul 26, 2014 - 5:21PM

    In Altaf Hussain’s Pakistan there is a separation of state and religion in the matters of governance and citizenry. In Altaf Hussain’s Pakistan all are considered citizens and equal citizens of one State, where being part of a religious community would not affect being part of the nation. This is what he has given to Karachi and Pakistan.

    Question raised here, quite irrelevant to the column though.


  • Ayaz mirza
    Jul 26, 2014 - 6:18PM

    I strongly disagree with your assertion.


  • Farhan
    Jul 26, 2014 - 6:28PM

    Dear Editor

    The Israeli professor who demanded that Palestinian women be raped is also a distinguished academic. Mr Waseem will be judged in these comments not on the basis of his credentials but what he writes. Ignoring everything wrong with PMLN, he simply laments PTI and naturally the angry response


  • Hasan
    Jul 27, 2014 - 3:49AM

    It is not the parliament, rather it is the type of parliament which is a big question mark.
    Who are the occupants of this parliament – most of them are ignorant, incompetant thugs who have manipulated their wayin, such are the people who have nothing to do with the law making, and designing constructive policicies.Then who would want to rely on this parliament

    Perhaps the other option is the streets, dangerous though. Nawaz, anabsenree pm,wants it so let him have it.


  • H Chaudhry
    Jul 27, 2014 - 11:58AM

    Here are the facts –

    1) Prior to 2013 election, every poll indicated PMLN will win and they won.

    2) There are 400 references with election commission and of which 300 are completed. No impact of elections.

    3) Remaining 100 references, only 30 or so are by PTI and that is about 30 or so polling stations. If all of the goes to PTI, even then the seats will stay same.

    4) Essentially, for right or for wrong, PMLN did win election that is much better than 2002/2008 etc as stated by FAFEN, UNDP.

    Put all these together, PMLN won the term for 5 years. So why is this bickering now, why is PTI so power hungry and what can they accomplish. Why such disrespect for people who voted PMLN?

    Can some one answer this please? Any PTI friend ?


  • gopal paul
    Jul 27, 2014 - 10:52PM

    Pakistan needs politicians of calibre. It does not have any.


  • SilverT
    Jul 28, 2014 - 3:33AM

    In democracy, opposition has the right to protest. No?


  • Farrukh
    Jul 28, 2014 - 9:20AM

    Two questions:If rigging was so wide spread how did PTI win in KPK plus several seats in Punjab? Second, if election cannot be free under an independent Election Commission and a non-political caretaker government then under which mechanism should future elections be held that will satisfy the losing party?Recommend

  • H Chaudhry
    Jul 28, 2014 - 9:49AM

    @Farrukh What you are talking is Logic! What IK is doing is senseless rhetoric as a result of his loss. He is unable to take the loss and greed for Power is intoxicating for IK turning him blind.


  • shehzad
    Aug 9, 2014 - 6:03PM

    @Kaleem Ullah: Politics is not run by so-called expertise in an area. pls get out of that ‘student’ mindset – classroom is miles away from real world subject, a fact that a newly minted grad quickly finds out once pitted against the professionals.


  • Anonymous
    Sep 16, 2014 - 12:51AM

    “Go Nawaz Go” means a slogan of SUPPORT!

    It’s unfortunate that Pakistanis are using English for their slogans. It seems that almost all Pakistanis don’t know the English idiom that the word “go” can be used for support. Remember “Go Pat Go!” by supporters of presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan?


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