The way the ruling party as a whole is throwing a fit at the mere mention of former three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s return to the country goes to show how obsessed the PTI is with the PML-N supreme leader. They’ve been in power for more than three years now yet their leaders still cannot utter two straight sentences without blaming or threatening Nawaz Sharif about something.
People with even short memories ought to remember how the PM of Naya Pakistan claimed that the PTI’s governance would be so good that people would automatically forget all past administrations. But as Imran Khan and his merry band’s frustration mounted over their self-professed Riyasat-e-Madina only turning out to be a much worse version of the old Pakistan, they gambled with the idea of blaming Nawaz Sharif for all their problems. If the economy continued to disappoint, or the rupee was collapsing, or inflation was highest in more than a decade, or the current account deficit was out of control, it was all simply Nawaz Sharif’s fault.
Yet, being rank amateurs, they did not realise that mentioning the former PM every time somebody asked a question about the economy only made people remember how much better things were before the latest transition. With time, especially since things kept getting worse instead of getting any better, people began questioning how high prices now could be Nawaz’s fault since they were a lot more stable under his watch. And since he’s been PM three times, and figures for each tenure are available for everybody to see, why didn’t his government ever face such problems for this long?
People felt even more insulted, of course, when the government then decided to simply ridicule all claims that things were not good; like saying inflation was not really a problem or prices were no higher than they ought to be. Or, better still, that Pakistan had and has the lowest rate of inflation in the region; which is nothing more than an abject lie that insults the intelligence of the people.
The fact is that in trying to heap his own failures on Nawaz, Imran Khan has only shot himself in the foot politically, so to speak, by keeping the memory of Nawaz alive in the people even as poor health and political victimisation forced him to leave the country. Now, the same man who promised to die before he went “begging to the IMF” is begging the so-called establishment to help it pass a very controversial mini-budget, at the behest of the same IMF, through parliament because even its own rank and file and especially coalition partners are very skeptical about such an inflationary step at this particular point in time.
People are also wondering when the “billions upon billions” the PTI was supposed to shake out of the Sharif family are going to come. They’ve made false cases, intimidated, harassed, even imprisoned, almost everybody close to Nawaz Sharif, and made one claim after another, yet not one penny’s worth of corruption has been proved against even one person and not one rupee has come to the national kitty as a result of the so-called accountability drive.
Now, as Nawaz Sharif plans his inevitable return to the country, and also to a record fourth-time premiership, the ruling party is falling all over itself again. They are actually the only ones whipping up a frenzy about some alleged deal, and some cooked-up negotiations with the British government, because they’ve seen public sentiment swing right back to the PML-N in almost all the by-elections and local body polls held over the last year or so.
The local government elections due in Punjab over the spring are sure to also serve as a litmus test for the popularity of the PTI and the PML-N in the most important electoral battleground in the country. We are already being treated to the novelty of a sitting PM lowering himself to the district level by spearheading local body polls himself while getting sitting ministers to take over important posts in the party; a non-starter of a policy if there as one. It is unfortunate that the people have yet more political experiments to endure before they get a chance to vote for change in the next general election.