Nawaz Sharif’s beguiling tone of injured innocence
By his recent on-the-road infantile antics and proxy political dominance, reducing the new PM into more of a ventriloquist’s dummy, in defiance of the letter and spirit of the unanimous Supreme Court judgement, Nawaz Sharif has become his own worst enemy, a malaise without remedy in the known world
The Supreme Court’s black verdict was in, the three-time prime mister was out, but contrary to his oft-repeated public utterances of accepting the apex court’s decision with good grace, he became a stirrer of strife, conducting a piteous spectacle of a campaign against the judges who had dared to send him home, despite being provided with ample time and opportunity to clear his name in corruption and money-laundering charges. He appeared to have immatured with age! But then, as the longest living and thriving survivor of the viper’s nest called Pakistan politics, he instinctly sensed the grave threat to his public and personal fortunes by the adverse decision handed out by the five-member Supreme Court Bench, and swiftly embarked on this political pilgrimage by a major road artery to get the disqualification question settled in the dubious so-called ‘people’s court’, comprising to an extent rent-a-crowd participants and captive low-level government workers, and brazenly using state resources in the process to which he was no longer entitled. By his rash, almost hysterical anti-judiciary jibes, unworthy statements about witch-hunts and stubborn insistence on his sinless-as-a-sunset financial dealings, he deceived nobody, but only brought further anguish to an already bewildered people, disgusted with the Panamagate revelations and conscious of the numerous corruption scandals (unpunished) that had dogged him throughout his three-decade long political cum business career. In his fear, desperation and guilt, Nawaz readily shed the long promoted but thin veneer of a well-meaning, laid-back joviality and pious self-composure, and revealed the real ugly face behind it for all to behold: the arrogant mask of autocratic command and insatiable lust for power, the loss of which is worse than death to those addicted to it. Somewhere along the road he suddenly self-transformed himself into an enthusiastic ideological politician and zealous revolutionary, a chameleon-like change which must have surprised even his closest advisors and supporters. There were, however, no clear cut objectives but only cloudy aspirations. The former premier has been speaking of the truth as if he slept with it every night, but the vast majority of Pakistanis in their heart of hearts now suspect that ‘all is not sweet, all is not sound’ in the Nawaz Sharif narrative, and all the ‘adulteries of (political) art’ cannot change this perception. A mass of his contradictory statements gathered over the years which cancel each other out, meticulously preserved in the electronic media archives, and aired often in these turbulent days, show him in his true (if that is the correct word here) colours, an opportunist par excellence only too willing to distort the facts with a straight face to serve his momentary and monetary ends. Between his self-serving strident protestations of injured innocence and the solid reality of Panamagate seen from an impartial viewpoint, now falls the shadow of a universal doubt. But, there is little fear that he will founder on the cliffs of reality or morality, as he conveniently neglects, ignores and glosses over the mass of unsavoury Panamagate revelations.
Rigging the political, bureaucratic and judicial game in their favour has long been the Sharif family’s forte and pastime, a valuable edge gained by their unprecedented long passage in the corridors of power. And of course demanding slavish personal loyalty and obedience, as collateral. They were never squeamish or restrained in these matters, in fact they were self-assured, being men of substance, billionaires from nothing. Right from the eighties onwards, they were past masters in buying off political rivals by hard cash, bank loans, lucrative postings or land grants, routinely appointing corrupt and incompetent officials to positions above their pay grade and then string-pulling them for ulterior ends, while the infamous conversation of Sharif the Younger with a sitting High Court Judge, seeking political vengeance against the late Benazir Bhutto is not hidden from the eyes and ears of men. As Brutus ruefully remarks to his friend Cassius in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’, ‘Let me tell you, Cassius, you yourself, are much condemned to have an itching palm, to sell and mart your offices for gold, to undeservers’. An apt description of you know who. The concentration and combination of unlimited state resources at their disposal, vast accumulated personal wealth and political power (the two complement each other), a somewhat loose and elastic ethical code, and plenty of tricks up their sleeve, have enabled the Family to spread their tentacles to almost every sphere of the government and society, achieving any outcome that they desired. That is, until the Supreme Court’s 28 July ruling on Panamagate, the first crack, but hopefully not the last, in the wall of pervasive corruption and illegalities.
In The Fall, Albert Camus’s unforgiving denunciation of shallow Americanised modern life and its easily accepted hypocrisies, the chief protagonist cries out, ‘Ah, the little sneaks, play-actors, hypocrites—and yet so touching… No excuses for anyone; that’s my principle at the outset. I deny the good intention, the respectable mistake, the indiscretion, the extenuating circumstance. With me, there is no giving of absolution or blessing. Everything is simply totted up and then: ‘It comes to so much. You are an evil-doer, a satyr, a congenital liar, a homosexual, an artist’. Just like that. Just as flatly’. Perhaps our long suffering peoples, hostages to ruthless and rapacious elites donning various guises, have at last reached this stage of national development and social consciousness: They can no longer stand lying cheats and pious hypocrites.
But even with the much lamented disqualification, always ascribed to a host of conspiratorial factors, and never the outcome of his own financial greed and moral failings, the former premier can still exert a powerful but invisible influence on ‘friends’ or rather ‘handmaidens’ during his references proceedings in the Accountability Courts and other relevant departments. He can still throw strong forces into the scale. This is where the ‘unknown’ right men, appointed in the right place at the right time long ago, enter into the equation. It is a wink and a nod affair, a secretive Masonic collection of the Old Boy Network, comprising bureaucrats, relatives, and the legal fraternity. And as the Bard so wisely remarked, ‘In Law, what plea so tainted and corrupt, But being seasoned with a gracious voice, Obscures the show of evil’. By his recent on-the-road infantile antics and proxy political dominance, reducing the new PM into more of a ventriloquist’s dummy, in defiance of the letter and spirit of the unanimous Supreme Court judgement, Nawaz Sharif has become his own worst enemy, a malaise without remedy in the known world. With more damaging revelations emerging or threatened so in the reportedly scary Volume 10 of the IJT, it might well be that the evil will not be ‘obscured’ this time, but will even be highlighted and underlined, resulting in just desserts for the guilty, much-needed respite to the exhausted country, embittered political opponents, and hope in the future to its pining and suffering citizens.