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Sunday, November 26, 2023

PML-N’s ‘Jaag Punjab’ slogan shouldn’t be taken lightly

The current political scenario is interesting. Mass resignations by the opposition can be a blessing in disguise as it would bring the 1985 democratic disorder to an end.

The Freemasons Hall of Democracy located on 33 Davis Road Lahore has produced many marvels to detract the democratic order in the country, the latest being: ‘Jaag Punjab’. In the sixties, Mujib-ur-Rehman raised a similar slogan; ‘Jaag Bengal’ and even presented his ‘six points’ to break loose from the centre, which was thousands of miles away. In 1967, Bhutto presented a progressive solution based on Islamic socialism. He explained that the masses had been exploited all over the country by a selected class. Rights of the people of all provinces had to be respected and restored. ‘All power to the people’ (Takat Ka Sarchasma Awam Hain) was his approach. As a Muslim League child, I was explained the importance of a ‘strong center’ (Mazboot Markaz); anyone who was against this concept was considered a traitor. Even Madre Millat, Fatima Jinnah was not spared when she demanded restoration of the 1956 constitution which called for provincial autonomy.

‘Jaag Punjab’ – to meet the end of Takht-e-Lahore?

In fact, the ‘Jaag Punjab’ slogan was coined by Mian Nawaz Sharif in connivance with the establishment of that time at the ‘Freemasons Lodge of Democracy’ mainly to counter the election victory of Benazir at the centre. It was through this negative slogan that the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan (PM) was deliberately kept out of the largest province of the country where she had a solid following. In fact, Mian Sahib is on record of having said that she is the PM of Islamabad only. This slogan has been used to stall the democratic struggle by the establishment and its created ‘King’s Parties’ like PML-N, PML-Q, MMA who have always been on the wrong side of democracy. Due to Zardari’s misrule, PPP has lost control of Lahore which was once the bastion of the party from where Bhutto was elected and had wished to be buried. He called the city, the ‘Leningrad of Pakistan’ (St. Petersburg now). Due to their long stints in power and out-of-turn promotions, against merit appointments in the bureaucracy, PML-N has succeeded in turning the metropolis into ‘Takht -e-Lahore’ (the throne of Lahore) for the Sharif dynasty.

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Imran Khan has recently highlighted this evil influence of the Sharifs in the administrative set up of the province. Poor governance is a direct result of the lack of cooperation of the bureaucracy. While the ministers have to cut a sorry figure, the bureaucrats cover their tracks. The excuse given for this total lack of performance is fear of accountability which to me does not make any sense. If the procedures have been followed, decisions must not be delayed but they are. With its clandestine, close liaison with the establishment from day one of its existence, PML-N has positioned itself to be an alternate establishment like the MQM in Karachi before it was cut to size. The slogan of ‘Jaag Punjab’ from the establishment (Sharif) should be taken seriously. Like Karachi remained at the mercy of MQM, civil unrest in the largest province of the federation can cause irreparable damage. Nawaz Sharif has started to sound more and more like Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman who then became the ‘Bangla Bandu’ (Father of the Bengali Nation), to be gunned down later.

PML-N playing a dangerous gamble

At this juncture Pakistan cannot cope with this dangerous trend in Punjab being echoed by the PML-N. The 1973 constitution continues to be the beacon of democracy and hope. Devolution of power has been the core of the constitution which has not been followed as conceived by its originators. All state institutions have to obey and follow this unanimous document in letter and spirit. While all elections since 1977 have been disputed, the one in 2018 has hurt the most as the establishment (Sharif) was not able to manipulate it through its machination and evil networks in Punjab.

In 1985 party less elections the boycott by the opposition (Movement for Restoration of Democracy) proved to be disastrous. In the words of Bhutto, “the field should never be left open”. In 1988, Benazir prevailed at the centre but was made to compromise to curtail her agenda, while Nawaz Sharif was given a free hand to build loyalties which ultimately led to the creation of his own establishment through Islami Juhamuri Ittehad (IJI). When it comes to manipulating the people’s mandate, both establishments have a poor track record and cannot be trusted.

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The current political scenario is interesting. Mass resignations by the opposition can be a blessing in disguise as it would bring the 1985 democratic disorder to an end. Common Law has not been able to convict the corrupt thus far but their voluntary exit may help in the long run. There may finally be some light at the end of the tunnel for the people of Pakistan that have suffered at the hands of successive manipulations by meaningless slogans like; ‘Jaag Punjab’ by the same forces who were responsible for its slumber in the first place.

Dr. Farid A.Malik is the Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. He was a Shadow Minister PTI and Co-Ordinator of the PTI Think Tank where the framework of the Welfare State was developed. The article was first published in The Nation and has been republished here after making certain changes for which prior permission from the author was taken. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.