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Why is there a strong dislike for PM Shahbaz Sharif?

Pakistan's opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif was elected as the country's 23rd prime minister, leading to hopes that he will be able to pull the country out of its economic and financial crisis. A businessman and former chief minister of Pakistan's most populous Punjab province, Sharif has the reputation of being a good administrator and an efficient ruler so why Pakistanis are having a hard time accepting him as the ruler?

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June 03, 2022, was a black day for Pakistan. The Cherry Blossom Prime Minister (PM) Shahbaz Sharif addressed the prestigious Command and Staff College Quetta. It was the same forum where the father of the nation Muhammad Ali Jinnah stood on June 14, 1947, to remind the armed forces of their responsibilities to serve the nation. On the very next day (June 04, 2022) both the PM and his son Hamza Shehbaz the Chief Minister (CM) of Punjab appeared before a court in Lahore to face charges of money laundering. From Jinnah to Sharif, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has lost its direction.

Ayub Khan the first Desi Army Chief was the architect and founder of this Cherry Blossom (CB) political leadership. It started with the murder of the first PM of the new land Nawab Zada Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951 when the General elevated himself as the defense minister. For years my question about the reasons behind the promotion of a very ordinary/junior officer remains unanswered; “Why did Liaquat Ali Khan promote Ayub Khan (PA 10) to lead the Armed Forces? So far, the only explanation has been ‘External Pressure’. Finally, when PA 10 managed to capture absolute power, the country had to face 10 years of ‘ Das Number’, forcing the students to revolt against his misrule, finally, he was made to step down in March 1969 by his own appointed Army Chief Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan.

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Between the 1st PM and the current 23rd, there is a long list of CB PMs

Polishing boots to gain power has been the practice for a long time. At the time of partition in August 1947, the Army used ‘Ammo Boots’ which were very sturdy and durable but had to be regularly polished for the shine to hide their ugliness. Then the uniform had to be searched.

Officers of the Royal Colonial Army were provided the services of ‘Batmen’ who were given the responsibility of dressing up the officers. Then the world changed. New uniform materials were introduced, and the era of ‘Shoe Shine’ and ‘Starched Uniform’ ended. I remember in the decade of seventies a British Army Instructor visited the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul and was surprised to see the use of the ‘Ammo Boots’. You are still using Ammo Boots? Yes under our feet was the smart answer.

Perhaps in the 19th and 20th centuries these special boots carried some significance but were then replaced by better footwear. I remember in the year 1971 we decided to visit Chitral. In those days one had to walk from Dir all the way to Chitral by crossing the ‘Lower Topi’ on foot. We organized our luggage, in those days used military bags (Phittos) were readily available in the Land Bazar. My cousin Irfan (Urfi) got hold of ‘Ammo Boots’ which he found stored in his house in Rawalpindi. For days he polished them and wore them to prepare for the long hike to Chitral. Finally, we arrived in Dir and the very next day started our walk towards ‘Lower Top’ the first destination.

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 Hardly after walking a few miles the ‘Priced Boots’ started to pinch

With great difficulty, we managed to reach the top and found a shabby place to sleep at night. There was a heated discussion about going ahead or back. Finally, it was decided that we will stand on the road and try to hitchhike with the first available ride traveling in either direction. To our fortune/misfortune, a Land Rover arrived which was going back to Tarbela after delivering the body of one of the deceased Dam Workers. Under the stressed circumstances, it was the best option available and the trip was abandoned, ‘Ammo Boots’ were blamed for the disaster. Then finally in the year 2004, over three decades later, as Chairman of the Pakistan Science Foundation, I drove to Chitral at the invitation of the Agha Khan Foundation and was involved in several research projects there.

As a real non-CB PM of Pakistan it was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) who started to build the ‘Lower Tunnel’ for the much-needed connectivity but after the removal of his government, the work was stopped. The ‘Boots’ were back. Finally the tunnel was opened for traffic for ten hours a day in the year 2018 when another real non-CB PM Imran Khan was in office.

Read more: Shahbaz Sharif: A Prime Minister with unparalleled challenges

I am not sure what the CB PM talked about in his address to the future Military Leadership of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Why was he invited and who initiated his visit? These questions need answers. Initially, it was reported that the CB PM would visit Gwadar to review progress but then he landed at the Staff College. It was here that Dr Gulfraz Ahmed who was then a Conducting Staff asked the fateful question after the address of the third usurper; Why did you hang ZAB?  Zia was rendered speechless, I am sure the open-minded young officers must have raised their hands seeking answers to pinching questions.

For me to see an accused person sitting on the stage as our political leader was both painful and regrettable. Pakistan will be much better off without such ‘Shoe Shinners’. The two speeches must be made public together with the question and answer sessions. (Jinnah June 1947, Sharif June 2022). Cherry Blossom will not be needed once the ‘Ammo Boots’ are replaced with more modern, flexible and useful footwear being used by the Armies of the world including our ‘Colonial Masters’ of the past. Sovereign nations carefully elect their leaders. Leadership demands honesty and integrity together with a vision to build and serve the nation. Those who are accused of serious crimes must come clean before they occupy positions of authority.

The gloss of the Cherry Blossom cannot hide or cleanse their past misdeeds.

 

The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be reached at fmaliks@hotmail.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space