Friday, 10 July 2015

Nawaz Sharif's Politics - Perception and Reality

Mian Nawaz Sharif is not a daft politician. The perception and realities of his politics are miles apart. He is portrayed as a glutton with unending appetite for desi food. Particularly, less aware, young social media users mock him as Nihari & Paye lover. Whereas, he likes plain Aalo Gosht. He is called thickheaded and ridiculed  
for his inarticulate methods of speech.  He might have gone blank on few occasions for which we may call him ineloquent but he is not an unwise politician by any account. His successes overshadow his political failures. He seems to be in good control of things. His political guile has changed my unconscious bias towards this important political figure of our country.

There is a careful thought process behind projection of his persona. His party portrays him as a mild, moderate, magnanimous, Muslim Punjabi political figure. Apparently, there is nothing flashy about his personality. In order to give leader-like impression, he exercises a lot of restrain to strengthen that false public image.He neither uses foul language nor smears his political opponents. Rather he uses his bigmouth party representatives to slander the opposition without coming to fore. In this regard, he is the shrewdest of all politicians on the circuit. We heard ramblings of Altaf Hussain, Imran Khan and most recently Zardari’s outburst against establishment, but Nawaz Sharif never breaks that barrier. Whenever required, he unleashes his faithful bullies like Talal Chaudhary, Rana Sana Ullah, Abid Sher Ali etc keeping his projected grace intact. Does this speak of a food loving thick head? I guess not. It speaks of a politician who knows his game and plays it really well.

Besides his political success, he is a successful businessman with ever expanding family business empire. He has plenty of loyal friends home and abroad. His political acumen can be measured by the fact that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto & his daughter both died but Nawaz Sharif against all odds not only lives but has become record breaking  3rd time PM of the country. After all, an alive PM is worth much more than a dozen dead PMs. Under duress he cut the deal and left the country to die another day. Not only he kept himself unharmed but kept his complete family out of the harm's way.

One fine example of his Good PR outside country was his time in voluntarily accepted exile after 1999 takeover of Pervez Musharaf. Foreign govts do not normally support deposed statesmen the way he was looked after by KSA & UK. He moved abroad with entire family and established business outside as well. He still enjoys popularity among rural Punjab, parts of north eastern KPK and in few parts of Balochistan. His politics is not limited to urban centers or astride Grand Trunk Road. 

His politics revolves around symbolic projects like construction of motorway and metro bus tracks in Lahore and Islamabad. His method of glitz and glitter in politics works like magic. People compare previous tenure of Peoples Party of Asif Ali Zardari with his govt and it is easy to conclude for average minds that he has given “something” back to this country. Motorways and Metros win votes, so why spend on education, health or managing energy crisis. 
In his present stint construction of CPEC can prove to be a game changer if it materializes. Completion of this project will take some doing because it badly hurts India’s hegemonic designs in the region and US’ perceived balance of power in Southeast Asia. These two will do some jiggery pokery to derail this project. Nevertheless, if this project is successfully completed, Nawaz Sharif will have a huge feather in his political cap. I really wish this project every success but its sheer significance makes may bring indirect difficulties for Pakistan. Importance of this project can be measured by the fact since conclusion of bilateral agreement between Pakistan and China, our 'well-wishers' have had many sleepless nights.  

Albeit finger pointing at dictatorial methods of running party affairs, NS and family have a firm grip over party affairs. Despite few defections, party has done well in by elections, cantonment board elections, senate elections, Kashmir and GB elections. Adequate results in local body elections of KPK, considering the fact that there was no real representation of PML (N) in KPK. In May 2013, Gen Elections another impressive tactical move of PML (N) was withholding distribution of party tickets as late as possible. They hired private surveyors to give them accurate assessment of confirm winners from every constituency of Punjab. Despite being the party of one province, PML(N) did exceptionally well by securing numbers in Punjab which guaranteed formation of govt in center. Being a veteran political outfit, any loose ends were tied up during voting by process. Such is the quality of their manipulations that they don’t get caught.  

Power is concentrated in family but no one in family does the apparent dirty work. For dirty work, they have field workers and front men who accept complete responsibility for actions of party leadership for example Model Town killings, Rana Sana Ullah accepted partial responsibility and after few months of quiet, he was rewarded for his loyalty by entrusting him the office of Punjab's Law Minister.  Their corruption gets full legal cover whether exemption of bank loans through fake business defaults, money laundering, expansion of business through promulgating laws that suit their business objectives, use of business guns like Saif ur Rehman, Mian Mansha etc; all speak of their craft. After years of organized corruption and countless accusations, they averted the grip of law.

His greatest success is rising above his extreme hatred for army. He has learnt to accommodate army. Now Army has become his force multiplier. People will forget how Zarb-e-Azab started. But NS will keep claiming and reminding people he did. Every other issue for which he sees long term political gain, he quietly begins to side with army. He played golf with Zia ul Haq when needed and coerced COAS Jehangir Karamat to step down. His magic did not work on Pervez Musharraf but he has learned to trade space for time. He completely backed out on Kargil for long term political gains. No wonder, today, Pervez Musharraf is nobody in country's politics and NS is PM. Likewise, when required, he manipulated and at times coerced judiciary to suit the needs of the time. Mostly, his constant patronage and investment in 'good officers' of bureaucracy and judiciary paid unfailing dividends.

His greatest political success is absorbing and averting of PTI’s dharna pressure. He graced parliament only under immense pressure of dharnas, mustered the support required and never bothered to look back since then. By inviting COAS to 'facilitate' between govt and PTI/ PAT and then backing out, he definitely put army in an awkward situation. PTI with its amateur leadership can now suckle on the lollypop of judicial commission which is merely a ploy to gain time. Election rigging bickering will continue till for another couple of years and NS will just sail through his current tenure.  Again, a political success which cannot go unnoticed.  

We can only measure a politician remaining within the prevalent political milieu of the country. Nawaz Sharif and his ‘pack of wolves’ are no angels, yet there is nothing remotely stupid about their politics.  Current political settings do not permit survival of an honest or stupid political figure. NS is neither of those. Look at present political situation emerging as a result of Rangers’ operations in Karachi. It also speaks volumes of NS’ negative political genius. He has used army as a state tool and cornered MQM in Karachi. In subsequent phase, Peoples Party took her share. He is enjoying a complete faceoff between his political (MQM and PPPP) and power-play opponents (establishment which is predominantly army). In dirty game of politics, one loses space and other gains. NS is gaining political space. He quite adroitly sympathized with Asif Zardari and allowed him a flight abroad along with his family and front men. At the same time, he continues to put weight behind Army operations. He is enjoying a win-win scenario in which both political parties (MQM & PPPP) are taking on army in firm belief that army is pushing the current operation to logical end. 

Now exercise your own fair judgment that someone with this much success cannot be stupid or plain lucky. This does not mean his methods of politics are good enough to earn a rational mind’s support, however, his shrewdness deserved acknowledgement and this blog entry has just done that. He is good for himself. He made fool of a nation for three long decades, made PM thrice and multiplied his business empire. Like it or not this guy is good rather a political genius. Well, next time when you are compelled to think Mian Nawaz Sharif is thickheaded, think again because he might be laughing at you. If perception was reality then English linguists would have not bothered allocating two different words for them.