A not-so-veiled ‘warning’

“I am not using the word ‘warning’ for the government, but the time has come to take a decision,” is how Nawaz Sharif gave a not-so-veiled threat to the PPP government. In recent months we have seen that Mian sahib has made it a habit to stay quiet for some time and then suddenly reappear on the scene with a bang. Why Mr Sharif felt the need to reassert himself at this point in time could be for a number of reasons. One of them could be that the PML-N is being scoffed at for having been a ‘friendly opposition’ till now and the Sharifs are getting irritated by such accusations.

Another reason for this change of heart could be because of the impending by-elections after the fake degrees fiasco. Though Mr Sharif was the first one to haul up his party’s fake degree holders, it is now beginning to dawn on him that most of the 160 or so accused parliamentarians, be they in the provincial assemblies or the National Assembly, are from the PML-N. It seems like a classic case of being hoist with one’s own petard. Around 10 percent of federal and provincial legislators lied about their qualifications. The Supreme Court has ordered the election commission to take action against legislators who were found guilty of forging their degrees to contest the 2008 general elections. Whether or not these fake degree holders are barred from contesting the by-polls cannot be said with certainty, but it will definitely lead to these parliamentarians losing credibility. While the morality of our political culture is now out there for all to see, it begs the question why the election commission did not check these degrees before the 2008 elections.

Another charge that Mr Sharif levelled against the government was that it has led the economy on a downslide and relies heavily on foreign assistance. He claimed that when he was in power, Pakistan never borrowed any money from other countries or foreign institutions. This is playing with the facts. Pakistan has been relying on foreign assistance since the day it came into being. There is plenty wrong with this government no doubt, but trying to rouse public sentiment by distorting the truth does not behove a politician of Mr Sharif’s stature. A friendly opposition he may not want to be any more, but a loyal opposition’s role is to objectively criticise the government and not transcend the boundaries of the democratic paradigm. Playing politics at the cost of democracy has never been advisable.

Mr Sharif came out strongly against the government for trying to divide the loyalties of the lawyers’ community by dishing out money to the bar councils. He accused the government of giving money to lawyers on an individual basis. This, however, has yet to be proved, allegations to this effect notwithstanding. The federal government claims to be giving money to the bars and not to any individual.

On another note, Lahore High Court’s Chief Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif’s ‘advice’ to the PPP to quit the coalition government in Punjab is not becoming of his exalted office. Justice Sharif has made no bones about his close association with the Sharifs, but qualified it by saying it would not affect any of his judicial decisions. It is hoped that the judiciary would remain unbiased and not let any personal affiliations come in the way of the demands of justice. Pakistan needs strong state institutions and long-lasting democracy.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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