Monday, March 16, 2009

Nawaz Sharif: Hero To The Masses

As usual, events in Pakistan move quicker than my ability to blog about them. While working on another post about Nawaz Sharif, I just learned that Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is going to be restored. I have a couple of immediate reactions. More sober analysis will hopefully follow at some point later in the week.

First, it is easy to see how Nawaz Sharif comes out of this appearing as a hero to the masses in Pakistan. In the last eight months, him and his party have been primarily responsible for the exit of an unpopular President (Musharraf) and the rentry of an immensely popular judge (Chaudhry) -- all without a shot being fired -- when other important players vascillated on both questions. He can legitimately claim that he has been consistent and strident in his opposition to Musharraf and his support of Chaudhry. No other mainstream figure in Pakistan can say the same.

Second, at this early stage, it is unclear if this move was part of a Grand Bargain between Zardari, Gillani, Nawaz, and Kayani, or merely a concession by Zardari in an attempt to stave off calls for his removal and resignation. The former would be more amenable to Pakistan's long term interests -- plenty of research in the Poli Sci world has shown that elite pacts can go a long way to ameliorating political difficulties in divided societies -- but is infinitely more unlikely. The latter interpretation is probably more correct, but also more likely to lead to yet more instability as the inevitable PML-N/PPP showdown comes to a close. This drama is far from over.

25 comments:

Jadev,India said...

Musharaf had to go coz of US, since he out-lived his utility and playing double games.Sharif and Bhutto family would even have made it into Pakistan if not for the US.Too naive to call Sharif a hero. PPP and PML-N have to keep fighting on one thing or the other to keep them relevant. If one or the other reconcile with the other, its own political base will be eroded.
In the mean time, terrorists will have a field day.

Peace said...

Isn't this the same Nawaz who was clueless when his army started the kargil war without even having a courtesy to inform the PM(?) of Pakistan. Apparently he was informed of what was happening in the border when the then PM of India, Vajpayee,called him.

Rabia said...

It was definitely a major concession from Zardari with nothing in it for him. I think his presidency is finished.

The thing that makes me mad about all the people celebrating this like some great victory of democracy was that it was clearly done with pressure from the army chief. How is this a victory for democracy? It's just another civilian government succumbing to pressure from the army and Punjab on the same side. The idea that Kayani was strongly against the restoration of IMC just seems pretty weak to me. I mean, this IS the guy who personally went to Rafiq Tarar's house in 2001 and sent him packing in a police ki van. IMC's grudge was against Musharraf specifically, there is no evidence that he had anything against the army as an institution.

Desi Lawyer said...

Nawaz Sharif and a hero? I beg to differ! HISTORY begs to differ. The same Nawaz that set his goons/thugs upon the Supreme Court? The same Ifti C who signed the first PCO. Independence wassat huh HOW?!!? I could JUST go on and on.

Although to give credit where its due, the Sharif bros have played their cards extremely well. Only time will really tell what their motive really was.

Seeing as the lawyers movement has indeed proved to be successful, will someone please recruit the lawyers, Sharif Bros and company to start a new movement against poverty, terrorism and other evils that plague the Land of the Pure?

Any volunteers out there to protest about whats happening in Swat.. Anyone?

karachi khatmal said...

i feel like i am becoming some sort of pro-lawyers spam blogger on five rupees today.

but rabia, while it eventually happened at the behest of the army chief, that was just the culmination, the final step in a two year long journey.

and to the desi lawyer - all your objections may be valid, but if we choose to view history as such we won't really have any heros to look up at. that may or may not be a good thing, but the fact of the matter is that whether it was che or fidel or sartre you will find slights of character, errors of judgment, contradictions and paradoxes.

both Zulfiqar Bhutto and Jinnah are literally studies in contradictions and paradoxical politics.

ultimately, politics is about symbols and moments. nawaz sharif's popularity might not be completely sustainable, and greatly manufactured. but regardless of his flaws, Chaudhary Iftikhar generated massive support. and that is something even the most astute tv channels can not create, it has to come out of its own.

i think the analogy i am going with is barack obama. after his AIPAC speech, he ended whatever hope of pure progressive change his presidency would generate.

but his election is historic, because of the symbolism of it all. and i genuinely believe it is the same for the CJ. the fact that most of us don't understand why people are so crazy about him also speaks of the disconnect we have with a lot his supporters. we can't change that overnight, but if we accept that the man means a lot to so many, it could bring us all closer together.

KUMBAYA!

Anonymous said...

rabia u seem like a miserable person. smoke a blunt.

Jahangir Sheikh said...

one of the better posts ive read about the long march. thought i'd share with the fiverupees crew:

http://cyncerity.blogspot.com/2009/03/and-so-once-more-ides-of-march-have.html

http://cyncerity.blogspot.com/2009/03/iftikhar-chaudharys-long-march-back.html

Ahsan said...

People, people, people. I know NS is not a hero. Please read my post carefully. What I said was the fact that it is easy to see how he appears a hero to the vast majority of the Pakistani public, which seems to have a very short collective memory. That is all.

Desi Lawyer said...

KK: I understand what you are trying to say and it is this very mass appeal/hero worship that continues to elect leaders like the Sharif Bros over and over again. Once bitten, twice shy? Perhaps not a trait us Pakistanis are very familiar with.

Slight errors of judgment. Firstly, I wouldn't call them slight at all. And errors of judgment at the cost of our country? I'd rather not indulge in such hero worship. As a popular saying goes, it's rather akin to "aa bel, mujhe maar".

I'm sorry but I think this country has other pressing issues which need to be addressed. I for one, am very glad that this nonsense is now over.

Desi Lawyer said...

Ahsan: I did get what you are trying to say. It's just that this amnesia that afflicts almost every Pakistani is positively infuriating.

Almost like watching someone in a horror movie go towards the hidden monster. And the audience is just left banging their heads against the wall and shouting DONT DO THAT!

Kalsoom said...

Last night waiting for the speech, I got really creative on how Gilani was going to deliver the speech. My favorite fantasy was him singing the speech with Zardari in the back doing jazz hands.

karachi khatmal said...

@ Desi Lawyer

for the sake of argument, i would be interested in hearing of any political (or otherwise) heroes you might have... let's try and avoid any prophets here btw...

Hira S. said...

(tentatively answering for Desi Lawyer)

Abraham Licoln?

Desi Lawyer said...

Lol thanks Hira...

KK: I don't have any political heroes, my friend.Out of curiousity, did you expect me to say Imran Khan? I think it's currently politically correct to vouch for Imran Khan in Pakistan. Just like it was politically correct to be a Musharraf basher a while ago. And politically correct to be a Zardari basher now (unless you happen to be Ghaffar bhai, the computer guy at my work place)

Raza said...

@ KK

Can't the media create it? Jinnah, Bhutto, Che and Fidel (Obama's a whole different league) had A LOT going for them. This guy? He looks and talks like a fucking retard. He's just so... un-symbolic. Without really ever letting the guy speak, the media's convinced us that he's the Mensch.

AKS said...

"The latter interpretation is probably more correct..."

Popular opinion is that this was part of a deal but I too am inclined to agree with you that this was Zardari saving his skin.

Its going to be interesting to see what PMLN's next move is going to be.

Its been a strange sort of day for me, I don't know how to feel. This is perhaps why I agree with most of the people commenting here (and the subsequent post).

karachi khatmal said...

@ Raza

yes the media played a role in creating the CJ as a hero, but just cuz you think he looks like a fucking retard doesn't make him one. and you can't really say he talks like one because he avoided any public speeches. its not like the media didn't let him speak, he CHOSE not to.

@ Desi Lawyer

actually, i didn't think you would name imran khan, especially not on this blog. what i did expect was you not to have any heroes, which is what you affirmed.

the reason i asked is that yes one can feel intellectually smug being able to poke holes in every personality and refuse to fall for hero worship. but heroes are supposed to be fallible, they are supposed to have fucked up traits and make dumb mistakes. its because they are human. of course, when people stop seeing their heroes as humans, it causes a big problem. but that doesn't mean we do away with having heroes at all. because a hero is meant to inspire. and being inspired is a genuine, human feeling which is very valuable.

so to both you and Raza, and i guess most of us, i know we can't see him as a hero. but he is one to millions of pakistanis. there is no doubt about that. and he's a much better hero to have than osama bin laden, or ajmal kasab.

my personal hero has always been wasim akram. and it still rips me that he fixed the fucking world cup final in '99. but that still doesn't take away all the moments that i felt joy, i felt inspired, i felt elated because of him.

its ok to have heroes. you just need to be aware of their limitations.

Desi Lawyer said...

To each his own KK.. to each his own

AKS said...

@ KK

During the 1996 world cup, Wasim Akram and a couple of other people from the team were attending a party at an empty flat in the newly built complex where I was living. They were probably there till about 2 a.m. (I don't know the exact time because my mother made me go to bed). The next day Pakistan were playing a match against South Africa.

He's still my hero.

Ahsan said...

I don't believe the discussion has switched over to this, but there's no way Wasim Akram threw the 99 final. Australia just kicked our ass; they were on a roll by then, and we choked. We made the mistake of playing not enough specialist batsmen (just 3 reputable ones--Inzi, Saeed, Ijaz) and a bunch of all rounders (Razzaq batted at 3, Moin at 6, Afridi at 7, Waz at 8). A couple of early wickets would have sealed the deal, and it turns out they did.

The matches we actually threw were in the mid 90s (93 tour to Sri Lanka, 94 tour to South Africa); by 99 there was too much scrutiny. Plus, it was the friggin' final: no one would be that shameless.

Ahsan said...

If I recall correctly, the reason we played such a lopsided team was that Youhana was injured for the semi which we won, and the management didn't want to disturb a winning combination. But I could be wrong about this.

karachi khatmal said...

@ AKS
well as long as wasim bhai cigarette nahi pee rahay thay... :)

@ Ahsan

fair assessment, but in my mind it works better that we threw that match than to convince myself that the bastard aussies could have beaten us that bad...

the point is even if wasim bhai were to be convicted of forming the TTP he still has enough in the tank to remain a hero in my eyes. just cuz he has his flaws shouldn't change that. the problem is that especially towards the CJ, people feel he should be the second coming of christ before they can be convinced of the hoopla surrounding him...

Raza said...

@KK

I'm talking about his aesthetics and charisma (though AKS's post speaks to the man's limited competence as well). Running with your cricket theme, there's a reason Javagal Srinath, Aaqib Javed, Makhaya Ntini and even Rao Iftikhar have never reaped the accolades they deserve. There's something very uninspiring, unexciting about these guys. On the other hand, Andy Flintoff and Shoaib are cool guys who haven't really done much with their careers. A true hero is Wasim bhai—an amazing cricketer with a square jaw and a killer smile.

McCain, a war veteran with a glittering political career and sound bi-partisan politics, had a weird jaw and gimpy arms. He wasn't articulate, he speeches weren't inspiring. Obama's HOPE poster, on the other hand, now stands in America's National Portrait Gallery.

We can’t disregard the fact that Iftikhar Chaudry looks like a fucking retard--which he does: he’s cross eyed and droopy faced. On top of that, he lacks the key charisma component of heroism (Nawaz and even Zaradi can at least boast that much, if not more). He hasn't visibly "done" anything. He's endured house arrests and sat around at rallies while other people made speeches. The photo ops--his choice or not--have been limited. And so despite no visible machismo, the media's manufactured a hero out of this guy. In fact, I'm wondering if his stardom isn't a complete media construct--if the people don't at all identify with him at all.

Believe me, I'm usually the first to spooge over a public persona. With this dude, I just ain't feelin it.

Indophile said...

@KK
"the point is even if wasim bhai were to be convicted of forming the TTP he still has enough in the tank to remain a hero in my eyes"
That was a very very puzzling statement. By that yardstick whats the problem with Mr Khan ? He too have his own flaws .Well I like Wasim Akram a lot and I don't really believe in match fixing alligation against him because accepting that means allowing a chracter flaw in your hero which is vey central to his image in first place.

karachi khatmal said...

"accepting that means allowing a chracter flaw in your hero which is vey central to his image in first place."

I'm not sure what you mean, but if you think you can't accept character flaws in your heros, then things are going to get pretty bad pretty soon...