Anger and outrage continue over statements by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif (PML-N) asking TTP to “spare” Punjab from attacks. While the CM might prefer that his remarks simply blow over and be forgotten, it seems that this is not the case. There has even been a call going around the internet for Shahbaz Sharif to be removed as Chief Minister.
Fasi Zaka, a Rhodes Scholar and former academic, called the CM’s statements “Verbal Diarrohea“
He claims that his remarks were taken out of context. That’s a flimsy excuse when he doesn’t offer an explanation for what kind of context justifies a statement like the one he made. And as far as the issue of foreign dictation goes, they seem to have forgotten their extended sojourn in Saudi Arabia.
Fasi goes on to make some pretty troubling observations against Shahbaz Sharif and his PML-N’s possible Taliban sympathies:
The Punjab assembly has been passing silly resolutions under the tutelage of Shahbaz Sharif, like the outrage over cheap midnight mobile calls because they lead to “vulgar” talks between the sexes. The Taliban comment is not the only evidence of reactionary thinking.
The PML-N has been coasting for sometime, immune to the rabid accusations against the PPP. In their anger of the corruption of this government, many observers have blindly sided with the PML-N. But other than supporting the judiciary, which is in its interest, what do we know of the party that will set it apart, especially from its previous terms when the party leader wanted to be the Amir-ul-Momineen? The PML-N had a terrible record of both attempted authoritarianism and muzzling the press. If anything, we have learnt from Asif Ali Zardari that rough times do not reform people; they just go back to their old self the moment they are safe and comfortable.
Ultimately, Fasi asks, are Shahbaz Sharif’s statments evidence that Sharif is soft on terrorism?
Despite the PPP dragging its feet on the Taliban, it finally committed itself to battling them. If we are to treat Shahbaz’s statement as a Freudian slip, then it bodes poorly for the strides made in battling the cancer that is the Taliban. This desire to negotiate is based on a perverted world view that these murderers have something holy about them.
Fasi Zaka is not the only person who thinks Shahbaz Sharif has shown some weakness. Member of Provincial Assembly Nighat Orakzai (PML-Q) offered Shahbaz some fashion tips on Monday to go with his statements:
Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) Nighat Orakzai on Monday removed her ‘dupatta’ and threw it on the floor during the NWFP Assembly session on Monday, asking the Punjab chief minister (CM) to wear it, in protest against a statement given by him in which he asked the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to “spare the province of Punjab from its terrorist activities”.
According to a private TV channel, the PML-Q MPA said that if Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is so scared of the Taliban, then he should starting wearing a ‘dupatta’. She said the Punjab CM’s statement had revealed that he was only concerned for the safety of his province, and called it a “betrayal” of those killed in terrorist activities in the NWFP.
MPW Nighat’s stunt has raised laughter about Shahbaz Sharif across the country. But one person who is definitely not laughing is Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer.
“The statement has damaged the image of provincial harmony in the country, as Punjab is the largest stakeholder in the war against terror. Shahbaz’s statement has proved that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is a provincial party, as it has disassociated Punjab from other provinces and hurt the sentiments of Punjabis,” he said while talking to journalists at the 2nd convocation of the Pak-Aims Institute of Management Sciences at Aiwan-e-Iqbal.
“If Punjab provides protection to such elements it would nurture sectarian sentiments,” he said, adding that Shahbaz’s statement would have long lasting effects on the PML-N’s political history. The governor said the statement negated the founding principles of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, adding the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had always worked for the strengthening of the federation. He advised the PML-N not to claim allegiance to Benazir Bhutto’s mission, “as the PML-N has alienated itself from Benazir’s political mission by aligning itself with the Taliban and their supporters”.
Heir: “It is not the stance of the Benazir Bhutto… it is the viewpoint of Gen Ziaul Haq,” he said, adding the PML-N was the heir to Gen Ziaul Haq’s legacy.
To another question, Taseer said the CM’s statement was tantamount to bowing to the Taliban and sectarian elements in the province.
“It is unfortunate that the statement has come at a time when our armed forces are engaged in a war against the terrorists,” the governor said.
To a question, he said terrorists did not respect any treaties. Referring to Sufi Muhammad, he said that he misused time and opportunity in the name of reconciliation provided to him in Swat.
Commenting on Shahbaz’s statement of maintaining anti-US policies, he said that history was a witness to who had sought US help after Kargil.
He said the CM’s statement had clarified the Punjab government’s support for the Taliban, adding that the Anti-Terrorism Act clearly defines that whoever supports and promotes terrorists is their ally.
The governor asked Shahbaz to clarify whether he wished to promote Talibanisation in Punjab.
Shahbaz Sharif surely is regretting his statements now and wishes the attention would go away. But his statments have raised some serious questions about his ability to lead during a time of war.