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……And the tiger roars!

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I can’t help recalling a book in a series on shikaar (hunting) by famous hunter of man-eating tigers Kenneth Anderson titled “The Tiger Roars“! 

Why? Well the elections in Pakistan of course, in the Punjab province’s capital Lahore in constituency NA-120 (National Assembly-120! And because the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)s election symbol was a tiger and this political party’s closest rival PTI’s (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf) symbol was a cricket bat. The PML-N is led by former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif and PTI is led by cricketer-politician Imran Khan.

Now because the news media (and especially an editorial) must be seen as being fair, it cannot — or should not — be seen to be taking sides and so it shall be in this the first NewsroomPakistan editorial. Or at least, that will be the endeavour.

Saying that the PML-N and its activists were ecstatic is putting it very lightly indeed! Pensive but poised to pounce when results from the first few of the 220 polling stations were announced, they were galvanised into motion the moment the results began piling up in favour of Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N’s NA-120 candidate and ousted Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s wife. She won with 61,572 votes while Yasmeen Rashid got 48,381 by the time this was written.

The victory was dripping with sympathy! But yet it was NOT a sympathy vote. Quite the contrary, it was a big, fat DEFIANT vote! However, some “big” Tv ANALysts (ohhh, these computer keyboards!) even went as far as saying that by-elections usually didn’t yield much of a turnout, so they probably looked pretty silly once the poll was over and done with. The turnout was tremendous for all parties contesting these by-elections. They even voted for a candidate from the banned Jamaat-ud-Daawaa militant group that changed its name from the notorious Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). So while the PML-N got a whopping big slice of the cake and the cherry on it and Imran Khan’s PTI got a sizeable share too, all the adversaries went home with something.

But that didn’t quite cut it! Here’s where from hunting man-eating tigers one can digress to the native american Sioux Indians sending smoke signals. What could they do? They weren’t as wily as Pakistani politicians of today, nor did they have these politicians’ means to communicate long distance, so long distance in fact that Nawaz Sharif was monitoring his wife’s progress in the by-poll at home while he — and she — were in good old England! That their daughter Maryam campaigned for her mother (in England for cancer surgery) exceptionally well and politically astutely — despite the “dice being loaded” against her mother Kulsoom — earns her kudos of the highest order.

But what of the Sioux signals? Well ALL of Maryam’s speeches were meant for Pakistan’s Army, although other opinion will have you believe that any “signals” at all are meant for the judiciary. Nay, not so!

Because one can’t go on and on here, let it suffice to say that the PML-N and indeed all other political parties frown down upon court verdicts they find distasteful and have always pondered whether to pursue a path to perdition or simply, obey! So what made Nawaz Sharif buckle and bow out? The word on the street is that this time, the court had the backing of the Army and Nawaz knew his goose was cooked, so to speak. Also, he and his advisers pondered whether the path to perdition or public sympathy was preferable; and they chose the latter!

However, it is unfortunate for Nawaz Sharif that some of his advisors, including some famous journalists, have advised Nawaz to dig in and defy his detractors (pronounced (a-r-m-y). This has only done him in. He and his PML-N always seem to do this to themselves. Pakistanis at home and expatriates alike see him and his party as wanting to control and have a piece of the pie in every sphere of Pakistani life; political, monetary, financial, business…..! You name it.

When they tried to do this last time they were in government, they’d “won over” even the Supreme Court of Justice Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqi (whom he installed as governor although Justice Siddiqi was so ill and frail that he would die in a few days). Rumour had it that the winning over was with “financial assistance” for the judge and a “professional push” for his wife, though this “could be” utter rubbish. When the PM set his sights on the Army next, things went south! And fast! Enter General Parvez Musharraf!

With things not being democratic at all any longer and all and sundry kow towing to the PM’s passions, the Army saw Nawaz as wanting now to put it too in his pocket and decided enough was enough!

That’s why today Pakistanis feel the PML-N has not learnt from experience! No, that does not mean that it has to pander to the “forces that be”, but it needs to be genuinely democratic within itself. Most Pakistani political parties being more like cult followings, the only one with a semblance of democratic practice seems to be the MQM Pakistan.

What Nawaz and Co should’ve done is sit down with the Army and sort things out with a big heart, in the best interest of Pakistan. The impression the PNL-N gives is that “The Fight” is for the supremacy of democracy. One would believe it if one saw it! The next few weeks might kill some of us holding our breath for what comes next.

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