PML-N Government Appreciates PPP Policies

Nawaz Sharif taking lessons from Asif Zardari

It is said that the imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If this is the case, the recently displaced PPP government’s most admiring flatterer is none other than Nawaz Sharif. After taking control of the government since only a few short months ago, the PML-N chief has taken page after page from the PPP’s agenda, claiming it as his own.

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Politics of ‘No’

Politics of No

I was encouraged by Nawaz Sharif’s demand for an independent panel to investigate the Abbottabad operation. The N-league chief was a call for reason to take the place of emotion by creating a serious investigation of the many failures that led to both a foreign terrorist leader living in Pakistan’s borders and the foreign military raid that killed him. While emotion dominated much of the discussion after this incident, Nawaz Sharif was calling for a cooler response aimed at cleaning up the mess rather than hiding the dirt under a rug.

Besides being the voice of reason on Abbottabad, though, Mian Nawaz’s party has followed the opposite path – the old model of politics which is to just say ‘NO’ and avoid the responsibility of offering constructive recommendations and feedback to help guide important decisions in government.

This strategy of ‘no’ came actually before Abbottabad. We saw it when N-league lawmakers resorted to shouts and a walkout in April when opposition walked out during the president’s address in March. What I wrote at that time was this:

When politicians devise strategies, the goal should be to move the country forward, not to move their own careers forward. Chaudhry Nisar and PML-N have some good ideas and they can contribute to making the country safer, more secure, and more prosperous for everybody. But they can only do this if they are participating in the process, not throwing wrenches in the works and spoiling the cream for everyone else.

Unfortunately, these words are worth repeating again as once again the PML-N has resorted to walkouts this time in response to the budget and causing a ruckus in parliament.

The PML-N parliamentarians gathered in front of the prime minister, finance minister and other cabinet members and shouted pre-planned slogans through the budget speech, forcing MNAs on the treasury benches and their allies to use headphones.

The “pre-planned slogans” were also the lowest form of playing to a populist gallery rather than addressing any issues of the budget or the nation’s struggling financial situation.

The opposition’s slogans included: “US lobby; corrupt government; drone attacks; IMF budget; dacoits’ rule not accepted; stop telling lies; respect judiciary and parliament; and let Geo live.” In their slogans, the PML-N members kept calling the rulers ‘dacoits.’

What is the point of this except to play to the media gallery in hopes of a spot light on the talk shows? None of these pre-planned slogans no matter how loudly they are shouted will fix the tax to GDP ratio. None of these pre-planned slogans will fix the load shedding problem. None of these pre-planned slogans will put food in the mouths of the miserable and poor.

This is the old style of politics that has obstructed the natural growth of the nation for decades. Friendly opposition does not mean subservient to the majority, but neither does it mean acting as a roadblock to progress. It’s time to relegate the politics of ‘NO’ to the dustbin of history and embrace a new model of compromise and consensus. Every party will find itself in the opposition at some point. The best way to move from opposition to majority is to prove to the people that they can help bring the country forward, not hold it back.

Opposition’s Response to President’s Address Disappointing

Chaudhry Nisar PML-N

When I saw the opposition walk out during the president’s address today, I expected it to be over something substantial. As I listened to the president’s speech, though, I couldn’t figure out which part exactly these politicians objected to so much that they had to get up and leave. Chaudhry Nisar says they walk out was staged because the government hasn’t been moving fast enough, and the opposition politicians felt that they didn’t even need to listen to the president and so they just walked out as a symbolic protest.

But what is the point of such a gesture? Had Chaudhry Nisar read the speech before the president spoke it? How could he know that the president would not address the grave issues of the nation? Obviously not, because the president did address the grave issues and asked for dialogue and consensus between all the parties to find solutions.

Now we need to build consensus on resolving issues like,

  • Energy shortage,
  • Circular debt;
  • Taxation reforms;
  • Restructuring of public sector entities, and
  • Documenting the economy.

President Zardari clearly does not believe that we are in an all okay situation. He has seen two of his dear friends murdered in the first months of the year. To accuse him of ignoring reality is simply beyond the pale, especially when it is accused by political leaders who do not have the respect to sit and watch the president of the nation speak for a few minutes.

What really bothers me, though, is that I must ask what speech would have possibly made Chaudhry Nisar happy? Should Zardari say that the country is in ruin and everything is terrible? Why can’t we ever be proud of anything? Is it too much to ask to allow the people to be proud of their country for twenty minutes once a year? Why does Chaudhry Nisar have to spoil this?

Even his complaints about lack of progress are missing the point. Chaudhry complains that tax has been imposed through ordinance and not through parliament, but even Maleeha Lodhi admits that there was no other way to do what was necessary because opposition politicians like Chaudhry Nisar are playing politics games with the nation’s economy and refuse to make the difficult decisions required to put the nation on track. Should tax be imposed by ordinance? No. But why Chauhdry Nisar cannot show the leadership to work with the government to do what needs to be done to build the economy up instead of putting it down?

What is really disappointing, though, is when Chaudhry Nisar has the complete lack of shame to bring up Raymond Davis and play to the gallery of Ghairat Brigade! He says we should know who made the decision to release Raymond Davis. He should ask his good friend Shahbaz Sharif for the answer! He asks where the blood money was paid from. He should ask his boss Mian Nawaz Sharif about his friends in Saudi Arabia where the blood money was paid from!

Of course, Chaudhry Nisar knows all of this already. He is only saying these things to play politics. He says that his walk out has given a positive message to the masses. That’s ridiculous. He is so consumed with his own political ambitions that he refuses to admit that anything good could possibly happen in Pakistan if PML-N is not at the helm. So why doesn’t he show that PML-N has some solutions rather than saying “no” to everything proposed and then putting down the nation over and again as a disaster? Why doesn’t he show that that he can engage in dialogue and build consensus rather than walking out of the room like a spoiled child?

When politicians devise strategies, the goal should be to move the country forward, not to move their own careers forward. Chaudhry Nisar and PML-N have some good ideas and they can contribute to making the country safer, more secure, and more prosperous for everybody. But they can only do this if they are participating in the process, not throwing wrenches in the works and spoiling the cream for everyone else.

I could not help but shake my head as the president neared the conclusion of what was a pretty good speech by inviting all political parties for a national dialogue. The 18th and 19th amendments prove that when the politicians put the good of the country before the good of their personal ambitions, the nation can move forward. But dialogue and consensus requires listening. And you can’t do that if you’re walking out to score cheap political points.

Nawaz Sharif Setting The Example

Nawaz Sharif has been setting a great example lately. Despite the ridiculous assertions of people like Shaheen Sehabi for whom only hateful attacks are welcome, Nawaz Sharif has been productive and constructive as the leader of opposition, and appears to have taken to heart the lessons of the past, growing beyond the petty politics of mutual destruction, using instead his power as opposition leader to influence the government and the voters while respecting the democratic process and the people’s chosen leaders. After all, today’s chosen leaders are tomorrow’s opposition…and vice versa.

Here’s what Shaheen Sehbai thinks about that.

He as a large Opposition has failed to keep democracy on the right track. He has condoned so much of corruption, mismanagement, deceit and the loot and plunder that every soul in the country is now asking for a change. No one wants to derail democracy but if the country is at this stage today, while Zardari is to be blamed, Mian Nawaz Sharif is an equal partner in crime because he has allowed all this in the name of preserving democracy. What has he done to keep democracy on the right track and check the government?

Give me a break. First of all, I will be interested to see if Nawaz files a legal claim against Mr Sehbai for accusing him of condoning corruption, looting, plundering, etc. Why does Shaheen Sehbai think that he has the right to go around slandering respected people without any evidence at all?

Secondly, allow me to answer Shaheen Sehbai’s very simple question of ‘What has Nawaz Sharif done to keep democracy on the right track and check the government?’ To being my answer, I will ask Shaheen Sehbai to start paying attention to the actual words of the PML-N chief himself. On Thursday, Nawaz Sharif told reporters,

“We should stress on reforming the government and if it cannot be reformed then we should talk of a change but through constitutional means instead of calling for a martial law (to get rid of a failed government),”

Nawaz is absolutely correct. This is a democracy, and all of this talk about a ‘French Revolution’ (which is only the latest brand name for the same old position that the same people have been hawking for years, by the the way) is the exact opposite of what the country needs.

Altaf bhai perhaps got a little carried away with his nonsense talk about martial law, but rather than jump on the band wagon, Nawaz Sharif simply said, “there is no possibility of it.” This was the mature, responsible, and correct attitude for a respected politician. He has even been standing up for the rights of minorities, much to the displeasure of some clerics.

Sharif said in Lahore on Saturday that Ahmadis were as important citizens of Pakistan as people from other religions and called them an asset. He made the statement to express solidarity with the Ahmadiyya community following last month’s two synchronised attacks on their places of worship in Lahore which claimed more than 80 lives with many more injured. In a statement issued here on Sunday, leaders of the Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia – an umbrella organisation of more than 12,000 Deobandi madrassas – called Ahmadis “traitors”. WMA leaders Maulana Salimullah Khan and Qari Hafeez Jahalindri urged Sharif to retract his statement and advised him not to “defy religion for petty political gains.”

I think this was especially important to come from Nawaz Sharif. PML-N has long had ties to some conservative religious groups, and it is important that the mullahs understand that PML-N will respect the rights of all Pakistanis, not only the ones that Salimullah Khan or Qari Hafeez declare to be pure enough. Hopefully it also demonstrates that Nawaz has grown up since the days of his misguided Shariat Bill.

Nawaz Sharif went on to say this week that if a number of big corporations paid their taxes properly, we would not have need for aid packages like Kerry-Lugar. Well, I don’t know if I think we could do without some aid completely, but Nawaz has a good point. And let us not forget that some of the worst tax cheats have been found to be media companies also. Even Musharraf, in his plans to re-enter the politics has announced that he will do so by building a political party and competing for votes.

This is how a democracy works. Even the once mighty dictator has grown up and learned it, so why can’t Shaheen Sehbai, Ansar Abbasi and the other anti-democratic media haters? Let me tell you one thing: If Shaheen Sehbai and Salimullah Khan tell you that you’re doing something wrong, KEEP DOING IT.