The dramatic turn in Raymond Davis case took Punjab’s Changa Manga style of politics into the background. Good for the Sharif brothers and thanks to the leniency of media towards Punjab’s foul game. Mian Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) and ‘lion of the Punjab’ was shown by media as the ‘man in action’ who took Punjab back to Changa Manga woodlands, 30 kilometers from its power base, Lahore, with its newly adopted/stolen 47-something PML (Q) MPs. A good start for 2011!
Woodlands are historically associated with dacoits. In Pakistan’s case, however, the woodlands of Changa Manga, Murree and Swat Valley are notorious for political dacoits. It was unexpected as the anti-floor crossing law, an informed populace and media pressure have blocked the birth of a ‘unification bloc’ or ‘forward bloc’ for the last several years. Nonetheless, family rule within the parties, politics based on ‘biradaries’ (kinships) and, of course, majority in parliament or provincial assemblies are tending to tempt political ‘lotas’(defectors) for gaining access to treasury benches.
The move was an eye-opener for many who saw the resurrection of real Nawaz Sharif after his long ordeal at the hands of military dictator General Musharraf Parvez. It depicted him as a leader with no skill in collaboration—a major requirement for delivering governance in a multi-parties political culture. It also sends a message that he is comfortable with ruling the rich Punjab single-handedly while leaving the terror-hit center, and the three troubled provinces for the rest of the stake-holders. For personal political gains, the move might sound expedient, but borrowing Mr. Sharif’s words, ‘national interests’ didn’t demand for expelling PPP from power at this stage.
The issue whether forming a ‘unification bloc’ is a wise step or not, need to be settled down by the politicians themselves. The question for ordinary Pakistanis is, however, who paid for the deal this time in these tough budgetary months. Sharif brothers were historically financed by the Sheikhs in Saudi Arabia and Gulf states for their indulgence in Changa Manga politics.
The Sheikhs didn’t like a woman as leader of Pakistan and sponsored Mr. Sharif’s horse-trading in the 1990s to remove the then prime minister Benazir Bhutto through a vote of no-confidence. In those days of bitter politics, Mian Nawaz Sharif is said to have accepted Rs 500 million from Osama bin Laden for bringing down the then Benazir Bhutto-led government. Bin Laden’s money scandal then surfaced in media due to his controversial stature. The likes of Sherlock Holms in Pakistani media—Ansar Abbasi and Kamran Khan—have yet to investigate who else contributed to Mr. Sharif’s ‘lotacracy’ campaign in the 1990s.
The newly-born kid called, ‘Unification Bloc’--a breakaway faction of Musharraf-nurtured party PML (Q), may not have gotten cash from Gulf, but who knows. One thing is sure, however, Sharif brothers will keep the turncoats of PML (Q) at the cost of political bargain wherein the chances are that development funds of the Punjab will instead go to the pockets of the group of 47. The group in return will foil PPP attempts to come back in power as long as Sharifs run the show.