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Why the Nawaz uncertainty? It makes no sense

Published : Oct 3, 2017, 12:14 am IST
Updated : Oct 3, 2017, 5:17 am IST

If Nawaz was going to be saved, it would take an almighty effort. Was he worth it?

Ousted Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (Photo: AP)
 Ousted Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (Photo: AP)

They came this far only to let him sneak back in? It doesn’t make any sense. It’s like the gang that can’t shoot straight. So back, again, we must go to the beginning. Why did the attack happen?

Between the silliness of this being about accountability and the space that Nawaz has to fight back, there lies a probable explanation. He got knocked out because the system was on autopilot, the ones who could save him neutralised by his own stupidity.

Go back to when it had started to become clear that Panama wouldn’t get settled under the previous CJP. Carried away by the opportunity to play saviour, Anwar Jamali had dragged the judiciary into a mess from which there was no obvious exit.

So he did the next best thing and exited himself — retiring on schedule. But the opening had been achieved; the system had something to work with. The first trick was to neutralise the successor, the current CJP.

An upright jurist by all accounts with no interests in games and shenanigans, he couldn’t be a good custodian of the political fate of Nawaz. What if he went by the book?

So he was forced out of the picture. The reasons are several, but one was the silliness of the N-League. There’s two basic rules about the CJP: he must retire at 65 and his successor is automatically selected on the basis of seniority.

The first is to prevent a crusading type from terrorising the system in perpetuity; the second to prevent the pols from fiddling around with the judiciary. In the turmoil of last November, with Nawaz at war with a different chief resisting retirement and the court scheduled for a change of command in the midst of the Panama hearings, the N-League made it known it was looking forward to December.

The implication being that with the double change in command, among the boys and in the court, Nawaz’s legal troubles would recede. That stupidity by the PML-N — the next CJP is a good man, wink, wink — helped the system get the incoming CJP out of the way.

So instead of the Panama hearings being handed off from one CJP to the next, the successor had to step aside under carefully manufactured pressure. A more muscular, more aggressive judicial approach had been fashioned.

Then came mistakes number two and three. Under pressure in the court, Nawaz and the N-League did what they do best — they acted like they are above the system.

There was no need for a methodical legal defence or sophisticated legal manoeuvring when the system could be brought to heel in other ways. The chief is a good guy. So is the DGI. Not like the last chaps. Everything will be all right. That was the N-League’s not-so-subtle early message.

But the only thing worse than a chief who is at war with you is a chief who you act like you own. Because it creates an institutionally intolerable position for him.

As the system ground on, as the court bristled at Nawaz and co’s casual attitude and demeaning approach, as the JIT farce unfolded, the problem became apparent. Even if he wanted to save Nawaz, could he afford to?

The system had been amped up to deafening. The missteps in court had created an impression that the Sharifs had something to hide. The propaganda on TV and online was violent and shrill; they weren’t going to stop until they had a head.

If Nawaz was going to be saved, it would take an almighty effort. Was he worth it?

The answer was obvious. The arrogance and stupidity of the N-League had made it easier. The only duo who could possibly save Nawaz had been neutralised by the N-League’s suggestion that the duo would eventually save him.

The system was on autopilot and the system had Nawaz in its sights. If you can believe any of that, you may be able to explain the current uncertainty. Nawaz is gone, but he’s not. The N-League is doomed, but it’s not. The system seems to swing wildly from confrontation to conciliation, week to week and even day to day.

The explanation: at the very top, at the level at which he could have been saved, there is ambivalence about keeping Nawaz out. That’s creating the space and uncertainty for Nawaz to try and force his way back in.

But the problem is that he’s just recently been forced out. To force his way back in will create the same doubts and suspicions that forced the ones who could have saved him, and may have been inclined to save him, to the sidelines in the first place.

It’s possible that in a second round, with the ones who could do the saving settled in, they will be able to exert their will on the system more. But that would depend on two things.

First, Nawaz and co cleaning up their act and ditching a lifetime’s habit of acting like you own people and berating them for not doing what’s expected-slash-demanded of them. That itself could be a step too far.

And then there’s the other problem: is Nawaz worth re-accomodating in the system? Even if there’s stuff to be done that may require a civilian partner, is Nawaz willing to play partner and not act like he’s boss?

It doesn’t make any sense.

By arrangement with Dawn

Tags: panama paper leak, nawaz sharif