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Monday, March 01, 2021

‘We strove for an institution not an individual’

Now that the monumental Long March by Pakistan’s lawyers turned into his tour de force on March 16...

Written by Ruchika Talwar |
March 19, 2009 12:52:21 am

A weary but triumphant Nawaz Sharif talks to Ruchika Talwar about his motives and hopes

Now that the monumental Long March by Pakistan’s lawyers turned into his tour de force on March 16,Pakistan’s former prime minister and PMLN leader Nawaz Sharif is savouring every bit of his triumph,so much so that he is even answering tough political questions calmly,with occasional poetic interjections. Speaking to The Indian Express,Pakistan’s jubilant Opposition leader employed Sufi mystic Hazrat Bulle Shah’s lines when asked what the reconfigured relationship between PMLN and the ruling PPP would look like: Phatey dil pher nahin mildey/ bhaawein ghutt ghutt japhiyaan payiye (Torn hearts can’t reunite/ however tight the embraces may be.) 

Sharif,along with stellar members of Pakistan’s judicial fraternity like Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan and Ali Ahmed Kurd,won what was being billed as a lost battle. However,their victory has reportedly been made possible with the help of the troika of PM Yousaf Raza Gilani,Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton,who collectively influenced an adamant President Asif Ali Zardari to concede to the lawyers’ demands and restore Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry as the chief justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court. When Sharif was asked to comment on the role of this troika,he maintained his usual safe distance from Pakistan’s army and said: “Frankly,I have no idea if General Kayani was consulted. All I know is that humaaray yahaan kursi ko salaam hota raha hai (we have always saluted the chair.) The country wanted a change from this practice. Mr Gilani played his role as PM astutely. And as far as Hillary is concerned,she called me and expressed her desire to see stability in Pakistan. Although it was her first call to me after assuming office,we’ve been friends since her husband Bill Clinton’s presidency. Clinton is my friend,so we had a friendly chat.”  

Throughout the conversation,the words Sharif uttered most were “people’s power.” When asked about his next step,he claimed to draw strength from the same force which had flooded Pakistan’s streets. “We aren’t going to insist on immediate elections. The important feat we have achieved is to tell PPP that we are tough rivals and strong allies. They now realise that they made it to Parliament only because of our support. Now that the judicial crisis is settled,in the larger interest of the nation,PMLN is ready to bury the hatchet. Likewise,PPP should abide by the understanding reached between Benazir Bhutto and me in 2006,the Charter of Democracy. They should implement it now.” Among the many postulates of the Charter,the crucial idea is the repeal of the 17th amendment to the Constitution brought about by Pervez Musharraf,which gave absolute powers to the presidency.

But what brings Sharif back in business? “I don’t want anything for myself. I don’t have any unprincipled or undemocratic demands,” he says matter-of-factly.  Since Sharif was seen to champion Chuadhry’s cause,it is likely that Chaudhry is biased in his decisions. Sharif,however,doesn’t agree. “I don’t think that will happen. I have never even met this man. I could have done this for anyone in his place. It’s not just Nawaz Sharif or PMLN —- the entire nation struggled for him. We strove for an institution not an individual. I am sure he will also discharge his duties in as unbiased a manner as his supporters.” 

Though PMLN had been making a loud noise regarding the restoration of the judiciary since 2008,the real trigger to the March was the dislodging of Shahbaz Sharif’s government in Punjab this February. It is believed that PMLN pitted Punjab against all the other provinces of Pakistan and made it a ‘Punjabi’ issue. Sharif wasted no time trashing this view. “This is our rivals’ propaganda against us. We are a national party with representation in all provinces. Insha’allah,we will show you by winning comfortably from all provinces in the next elections.” 

Finally,he plays the eloquent politician again and wishes to give India a message. “I pray India continues to move ahead on its path to progress and prosperity. And I hope Pakistan can join you on this journey.”

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