Who is Pakistan Marching For - Nawaz Sharif or Iftikhar Choudhry?
The lawyers protest march gets underway in Pakistan defying the ban by President Zardari’s Government. As political instability grips the country speculations of a military take-over are mounting. In the political drama of reinstating Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhry, Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has succeeded in projecting President Zardari as the villain. But is Nawaz Sharif genuinely fighting to uphold the cause of democracy or is he merely fanning anti-Zardari sentiments to serve his political objectives? Much of the evidence supports the latter contention.
JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazl-ur Rehman, who was mediating to reconcile the differences between Sharif and Zardari, holds Sharif responsible for the breakdown of talks. President Zardari has agreed to review the disqualification of the Sharif brothers and also take steps for reinstating the deposed judges. However, emboldened by public support, Sharif refused to grant President Zardari any time for reconsideration.
Nawaz Sharif has not only strategically aligned his political agenda with the lawyers protest, but has in fact widened the mandate of the protest as an anti-Zardari uprising. In his recent public speeches Sharif has invested more energy in attacking President Zardari rather than referring to the issue of democratic governance. According to Sharif, Pakistan is going through its worst ever crisis and the protest march would change Pakistan’s destiny. Sharif is projecting himself as the messiah who is poised to protect and promote Pakistan’s democracy.
It’s interesting that the lawyer’s march was initially scheduled for March 9, coinciding with the anniversary of Chief Justice Choudhry’s sacking by former President Musharraf, but was later rescheduled for March 12. The postponement of the march by a few days had two implications: firstly, Sharif made best use of the extra time to turn the lawyers protest into a wider political movement by addressing several public gatherings and arousing public antagonism against the Government. Secondly, if the protests began on March 9, Chief Justice Choudhry and not Sharif would emerge as Pakistan’s hero figure.
Nawaz Sharif has managed to isolate President Zardari with a masterstroke and refurbished the lawyer’s protest as his political comeback strategy. Few expect President Zardari to back-off without a fight and await his counterpunch. The lawyers in Pakistan have an important lesson to learn: their cause is merely a ploy for power politics rather than a fight for strengthening democracy.
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