NA-120 and gatekeepers



Never before has this country witnessed such an invidious election campaign against a politician who had been ousted by the higher judiciary from the office of the prime minister on the lame excuse of not withdrawing his salary. All kind of slur was let loose on him (Nawaz Sharif) and his family. Through the July 28 judgement, the salaried class (this time, the judges) overthrew the representative of people who pay taxes from which the salary is paid to the judges. The same people have voted for the substitute of the ousted politician on September 17 in a by-election, thereby expressing that they enjoy authority over the decision of the judges.


Against its July 28 judgement, the Supreme Court (SC) had to reject the review petition of Nawaz Sharif hurriedly to make it sure that the rejection took effect immediately before the election – to affect the electoral choice. This effort of the SC also went in vain. Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, the wife of Nawaz Sharif, secured the electoral victory easily without even visiting the constituency. The love of people for Nawaz Sharif and his representative was greater than the revulsion generated by the SC through its judgment.


If Yasmeen Rashid of the Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI), a competitor of Kulsoom Nawaz, could not win this time, she cannot win next time in the general elections of 2018. The election this time, under the shadow of all kind of slur and denigration, was a golden opportunity for her to win.  This time the election campaign was a campaign of scorn and smear run both in the streets of Lahore and on certain private TV channels against the PML-N. Be they retired army officers as defence analysts, retired foreign office officials as foreign policy analysts, or select talk show anchors and reporters as seasoned analysts, all of them made the election campaign run essentially on the condemnation of Nawaz Sharif. Spewing malice and nastiness for fetching relevance is a new trend visiting the electronic media in general. The more one stoops low to disparage others, the more the media house is considered competitive in the market. This is the kind of survival nursed on dispensing hatred in society. One wonders the psychological and mental state of the speakers who perhaps are oblivious of the fact that negativity mars mental health and ruins hormonal normalcy. Nevertheless, all of them did one interesting thing: they kept on reinforcing and reassuring one another, and eventually embraced oddity. They are now flummoxed to find out that the voters of NA-120 levelling the score.


For many, in the aftermath of the July 28 judgement, Nawaz Sharif’s GT Road rally from Rawalpindi to Lahore was of little value and could be ignored without deriving any message. One TV talk show anchor who remained imprisoned in a Middle East country for securing thumb (and finger) impressions of his deceased father on certain stamp papers in a hospital called the rallying crowd “stupid” and that through the GT Road rally “Mian Sahib was making the people of Gujranwala stupid.” He must now be speechless. The problem with such anchors and analysts is that they do not do analysis within the domain of journalism. Instead, they avidly become part of the propaganda to earn cheap popularity.


The worrying aspect is to find out where these odious campaigns in the name of analysis are taking the electronic media and its viewers to. One of the reasons for this loathsome trend may be that there are more TV channels on air than the options for watching them really exists. There is a severe competition for survival and the quick solution is sought in sensationalizing news items and creating fake news items under the claim that “my source has informed me about it” and “being a journalist, I am not supposed to disclose my source”. One doctor sahib has earned popularity (or notoriety) by fabricating phony news stories supplied through fake inside informers.


Six projects have offered unmatched strength to Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N in Lahore. The first of them is the metro bus service, which has not only transformed the face of Lahore but also the attitude of the Lahoris towards living style. The bus service has increased the to-and-fro movement of the commuters at a quick pace and at low cost. Saving time and money in cities is a blessing. The metro bus has made a major contribution to increasing economic activity in Lahore. This one project is the signature project of the PML-N in Lahore and it has evoked not only the jealousy of those who want to crumble the PML-N into insignificant pieces but also the affection of those who want to give another chance to the PML-N. The critics including the PTI leaders must get off their luxury cars, visit the metro bus stops at least, and find out for themselves the reason why the buses remain full to their capacity throughout the day, despite the fact that the buses have to go one after the other after every three minute. With the swiftness of dependence of the citizens on the metro bus service, it seems that long buses or semi-train buses have to be plied soon to cater to the needs of commuters. The Orange railways will be another welcome addition.


The second project is the infrastructure of roads and bridges which has facilitated and expanded economic activity to the periphery of Lahore (and the periphery of Lahore is still expanding) by swift and unhindered movement of locomotive. The third major project, which has won the hearts of the Lahoris, is the cleaning (including washing and vacuuming) and scrubbing of the streets and roads of Lahore. The practice continues the whole night until early morning. Never before have the Lahoris experienced such dedication, efficiency and consistency. The fourth major project is the anti-Dengue (mosquito) drive of the city government (or the Punjab government). The whole city of Lahore was turned upside down in search of Dengue larvae in any accumulation of water till the time the larvae fled the scene. The fifth project, which is not Lahore specific though, has also won laurels for the PML-N and this project is the scholarship and laptop schemes for brilliant students. There is also a sixth project which is not Lahore specific but which affects the life and the economic activity in Lahore and this is the uninterrupted supply of electricity. Despite huge consumption of electricity, the load shedding hours are reduced to minimum which even touches the limit of two to three per 24 hours. Nevertheless, all these (and many other) projects are setting the quality bar high for any next government to meet.


In short, the electoral win in NA-120 was owing to two factors: first, requiting Nawaz Sharif’s love; and second, appreciating the developmental work done in Lahore.