Sharif braving political storms

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By : Salahuddin Haider

Of late Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been facing several issues back to back. In the wake of every crisis “experts” start predicting the demise of the democratically elected government. Sharif and his government, however, emerge unscathed from every storm.

“Invisible hands” or perhaps lady luck is extending all-out support to Sharif these days. There is no other explanation for Sharif’s surviving all the storms these days. Anti-Sharif elements are gearing up to uproot him from power and perhaps planning to make it impossible for Sharif to ever reenter the corridors of power.

The “grand alliance” spearheaded by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan has become talk of the town. One could see everybody discussing the issue in the country. However, it would be premature to comment on its formation, strategy or the possible outcome, as the picture is not yet clear.

Despite that the panic in the government camp — evident from the counterattacks from various close Sharif aides — appears ridiculous.

At this stage the formation of a grand alliance that will see Dr. Tahirul Qadri, the famous Chaudhry duo, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, and some others appears to be a brainchild of the infamous “hidden hands” meant merely to blackmail Sharif into submission.

The 10-point reforms agenda, framed in London between Qadri and the Chaudhry brothers, may look ideal in content but while it is being discussed at various levels, a pronounced public support, has so far not been seen. The recently launched military offensive against Taleban in North Waziristan is against the wishes of Sharif who had been looking for a political solution to this issue. This also shows that the civilian and military leaderships were not on the same page over this issue and the attack on Karachi airport proved to be the last straw on the camel’s back and left Sharif with no other choice but to agree to the military option against the Taleban.

It appears as if the two sides are employing the tactic: You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. That’s why the sad incident that jolted Lahore failed to create ripples. On Tuesday, police raided Qadri’s house and seminary complex to remove security barriers that resulted into a clash between his followers and the law enforcers. The clash turned bloody and claimed nine lives and scores got injured. The uproar against such brutality even forced MQM chief Altaf Hussain to call for a strike in Karachi, which was later withdrawn. The government, however, appears unfazed. What must have given satisfaction to Sharif later was the tacit support from the military, which no one had expected. The report presented to him by “agencies” a term normally used for the army or the ISI, blamed Qadri for the turmoil. Military, pampered by Sharif, has rescued him from an extremely difficult situation.

But whether the situation can really remain comfortable for him in the long run cannot be guaranteed.

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