Nawaz Sharief : Running scared

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Pakistani capital Islamabad is bracing up for two major political rallies this week. One organized by Tehreek e Insaf, led by Imran Khan and the other by Pakistan Awami Tehreek, PAT, which is led by the Canada based Pakistani religious preacher, Tahir ul Qadri. So far the PML-N  Govt, both in Islamabad and Punjab have tried to play down both the rallies, at least in their public pronouncements. The Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharief, in an interview recently said that Imran Khan was isolated and Tahir ul Qadri was a shady character, who did not deserve much attention. But these statements did not seem reassuring since the ground realities are completely different from what the authorities will have the people to believe.

PML-N won a thumping majority in the elections held in Pakistan last year, on the back of some tall promises. One of their biggest electoral promises was to improve the worsening power crisis in Pakistan and they promised it would be improved in quick time. That one promise has come to haunt them given that the power crisis in Pakistan has worsened and there are no signs of any improvement in the near future. The Pakistani electorate has been disillusioned with this Govt in just one year. Imran Khan had been alleging that his party’s loss, though he won a sizeable number of seats, was largely on account of rigging. His party went on to form Govt in the KP province in alliance with Jamat I Islami.

Tahir ul Qadri had organized a similar march before the general elections were held in Pakistan last year, but then moved back to Canada, where he is based. The Sharif brothers have been running Pakistan like their personal fiefdom which has infuriated the masses, even certain sections of their party supporters. But now suddenly Nawaz Sharif has discovered the merits of political consultation. He has been meeting a lot of political leaders in the past few days, but unfortunately most of these political leaders are insignificant.

The PML-N Govt has resorted to some gimmicks in its bid to diffuse the effect of these rallies. It is planning to give free national flags and has also declared Aug 17 as Youm e Falasteen (The Palestine Day). Rather than taking these marches head on and finding real workable solutions, the ruling dispensation in Pakistan has unfortunately resorted to gimmicks which might not be of much help to it. The irony that both Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri seem able to demonstrate street power in Punjab, a province where the PML-N is ruling, should not be lost on anyone. The best way of countering the threat of these proposed political rallies would have been to organise a massive rally by PML-N, but it seems it has lost that ability to mobilize people on such a big scale. This also shows how unpopular the Govt has become in just above one year in office after failing to deliver on its big ticket promises.

The politics of Pakistan has always been volatile and there have been very few periods during its history when it has seen political stability. But given the large mandate that PML-N received in the last general elections, most people in Pakistan had expected political stability to return. But it seems that expectation will have to wait. Right now, all eyes are on Islamabad where the rallies are expected to culminate on the Pakistan independence Day on Aug 14.

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