Sharif’s return will energise Pakistan’s politics: report


Islamabad : The return from exile of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif will severely impact the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) that ruled the country till a caretaker government was put in place ahead of general elections, a media report Monday said.

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“The first casualty is likely to be the official Q league. Created from a rump of the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz), it is not a natural party,” The News said Monday in a commentary.

“It is a conglomeration of opportunists and self seekers who have always gathered around military leaders. It has no distinct ideology and the only qualification of its leaders is the support of (President) General (Pervez) Musharraf.

“With Nawaz Sharif back home, many among this band of weather vanes have started to worry about their future. They are stuck for the moment…but, with every survey indicating a massive support for the PML-N among the electorate, particularly in Punjab, they must be seriously fearful of their future political prospects,” the newspaper maintained.

Sharif, his brother Shabaz Sharif and their families returned to Lahore Sunday to a tumultuous welcome after seven years in exile. The reception was in sharp contrast to the manner in which Sharif was bundled off to Saudi Arabia when he attempted to enter Pakistan in September.

“A beaming Nawaz Sharif…was obviously ecstatic not only to be home but because such a large number of people had gathered without any visible preparations by the party. This spontaneous welcome is a pointer to the fundamental shift that their arrival brings into Pakistani politics,” The News noted.

Thus, it is little wonder that PML-Q chief Shujaat Hussain “has been disturbed enough to let loose a canard” that Sharif’s arrival is part of another deal with Musharraf, the newspaper said, adding: “The reality as various reports have indicated is quite the opposite.”

After the return in October of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Saudi Arabia that had been hosting Sharif since he went into exile in 2000 was “obviously not ready to hold him any longer.

“General Musharraf made a dash to Saudi Arabia to convince King Abdullah to detain him for a few more months, but failed. After that, he had no choice but to allow the Sharif family back. To make the best of a bad situation, he decided to accept the inevitable without creating any hurdles.

“Whether he allows them to move around freely after the initial welcome will only become visible in the next few days,” The News said.

The question now is whether the PML-N and Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) can work together.

“If (they) can…it will give a huge boost to the anti-Musharraf movement which so far has been led by the lawyers, civil society activists and students. Sharif’s presence in the country creates the possibility that (opposition) APDM (All Parties Democratic Movement) parties joined by the PPP can now take their position in the forefront of this movement,” The News said.

“General Musharraf’s popularity in the country is low, in single digits according to some surveys, and his support abroad is shrinking. If the opposition parties come together to challenge him with the support of civil society, it will create serious problems for him,” it added.