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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Close to the Dead End, Sharifs Out to blow the system

Shaheen Sehbai|

I am happy to write this in Calibri font, as it is not illegal anymore. But this piece can only be written in this font because it deals with issues created by the illegal use of Calibri.

While my media friends are chilling out, watching Najam Sethi’s PSL and cruising on calm warm waters around Dubai, the political temperature and the battle between institutions back home has almost reached the boiling point or the dead end.

After what has happened, and is happening, the policy of judicial restraint and strict non-interference by the military and security establishment has stretched so thin, it can snap anytime.

read more: Bureaucratic corruption: Ahad Cheema arrested by NAB

The salient features of the present picture include:

  • After Nawaz Sharif has been legally sidelined, his ambitious and energetic brother in Lahore is now stuck neck deep in a swirling mass of quicksand, sinking deeper by the day, any hour.

  • His open support and instigation to a revolt by the Lahori bureaucrats have almost wiped out his chances of becoming the next leader of the country.

  • Nawaz himself has conceded defeat by saying he is sure to get convicted in the few remaining corruption cases. So his policy is: After Me, the deluge.

  • He has unleashed his defiant daughter but she is also in the same boat and will sink together with his dad.

  • The NAB-backed fully by the Supreme Court and the armed forces, has launched a frontal and direct offensive in Punjab, ending its policy of passive restraint.

read more: Is Democracy merely rule of the majority?

  • As all of these institutions are on the right side of the law, NAB has been threatened and challenged by the provincial government, which in fact should have been helping the NAB to catch the corrupt. It is just the reverse and untenable.

  • After Shahbaz’s hitman Cheema was arrested, the next in line is Nawaz’s right-hand man Fawad Hasan Fawad and he is reported to have joined a gathering of protesting baboos in Lahore through a video conference.

  • PM Abbasi flew direct from his TAPI visit to Lahore to huddle with Shahbaz and nothing about their meeting was said.

  • They could, however, have discussed only two things. PM telling CM to stop the Punjab baboos revolt or PM agreeing to CM’s demand that same strategy should be adopted in Islamabad. Both are a no-win prospect.

  • The embedded perversity in this situation is that those in government are rising in revolt against their own authority. If the revolt persists, Shahbaz government sinks deeper into the dirt. If the same happens in Islamabad, Abbasi would subvert himself.

read more: Election campaigning on the roll: three parties three narratives

  • With the political prism standing on its head, lop-sided, it does not need even a nudge to overturn it.

  • The last push could be coming from Islamabad where reports of a presidential ordinance to clip the powers of NAB are being considered. That may be the last nail if one was needed.

  • If that happens, the Supreme Court will immediately come into action. The deadlock will deepen further, the swirling mud pond more stinky.

  • The joke now being perpetrated as Senate elections may also be swept aside by the Courts or makes the Upper House look ludicrous.

  • Every political initiative, based on negative intent and perverse logic will have failed.

In such a scenario, with Punjab government deadlocked, Centre not responding to correct the wrong, all institutions fighting each other, there will be no way out but for the Supreme Court to invoke Article 190 and ask the armed forces to intervene in whatever shape and manner were deemed necessary.

In Punjab, this quiet intervention has already happened with Rangers taking over the security of NAB headquarters where Cheema was kept. The obvious threat was not from anyone but the Punjab Police and other security departments. In short an internal subversive threat.

The catch in this situation is that Nawaz has been asking for such an intervention by his provocations and stinging attacks on other institutions. The policy of restraint did not allow him to claim victimhood so far.

Now the institutions have moved on as the final verdict declaring Nawaz and family as convicted criminals is almost ready to come.

read more: Bureaucrats united against NAB over Ahad Cheema’s corruption charges

That probably was the deadline for the institutions to pursue the restraint. Now it is time to show some teeth.

The few remaining days may even see a more desperate Nawaz and his family committing more shocking attacks on the institutions.

A physical attack on the Supreme Court or the NAB court could also be anticipated. Surely it would be prevented.

The bigger failure is that the political system has failed to stop any of these violators from thinking irrationally and for the larger cause of keeping democracy running.

All other parties could have joined in roundtable to advise Nawaz and family not to destroy everything. But they are so deeply divided they have lost the capacity to think even about their own future.

Some parties are crying wolf, shouting loud but if Nawaz succeeds in carrying out a suicide attack on the political system, all parties will lose.

Shaheen Sehbai is a senior journalist, has written for a number of newspapers and was the former Group editor of the English daily newspaper, The News.