MOHAMMED RIZWAN | 3 AUGUST, 2017
TORONTO: Most of the politicians specially in South Asia rely heavily on rhetoric, bombast, fantasies bordering lies, hollow promises, doctored and twisted facts, grand-standing and outright lies to further their political agendas. Exceptions are, of course, there.
The public at large too, seems to favour politicians who can speak louder than the other and who can sway a crowd just with the help of sheer rhetoric – no matter how devoid the talk is of facts.
Pakistan’s incoming prime minister (so far it’s true) Shahbaz Sharif is no Churchill in oratory. The fact is he is addressing the same Press conference for the last 20 years. Verbosity, archaic and palatial Urdu language, with zero impact on the audience. His detractors claim that the man does not believe in the truth, and his image of a good administrator is phony. After some 25 years in politics, three marriages, five children, the younger Sharif still fancies himself in the image of an angry young man and copies Z.A. Bhutto style of oratory.
Unlike his more composed and sober elder brother, the younger Sharif is volatile to say the least. One day he announces a project with full force and the next day the entire project is abandoned and shelved. In the 2013 election campaign he promised to give cheap bread to the masses and soon after coming to power ordered the bureaucracy to set-up mechanical Ovens throughout the province of 90 million people . But after a few weeks he abandoned the project.
Following this were other big projects for Danish Schools, Yellow cabs, food stamp scheme, Aashiana housing schemes, green tractors and what not. All schemes started with pomp ended in dust.
Only two projects from his signature schemes are going to see the light of the day – Metro bus project and Orange train (commuter in Lahore). And both the projects are a financial white elephant. Both reportedly smack of financial irregularities. One carries the price tag of 56 billion according to his own government and the other (Orange Train) carries a cost of 200 billion rupees – all loans on market interest rate from China. Sharifs are known for their liking for big money projects because one, they are there for everyone to see and two, greater the costs, greater the commission.
While younger Sharif is building these projects, the condition of the Punjab government schools and hospitals resemble a picture from some African failed state. This Sharif also deserves mention in the Guiness Book of world records – for making the most trips to China and for signing the most MoUs with Chinese companies. None of these MoUs translated into real project except Orange Train and a solar energy park in Bahawalpur, that too now, is gathering dust.
Both Sharifs graduated from Government College Lahore and after completing BA, joined the family business. However, Nawaz Sharif later completed bachelors in law from Punjab University. Both were married off within the family. However, Shahbaz went on to marry thrice again. He married famous socialite and Mustafa Khar’s ex-wife Tehmina Durrani against the will of his parents. Then he fell in love with another Lahore socialite Aliya Honey. His next marriage was with a bureaucrat from his own secretariat whose husband was in Punjab police. This last marriage was kept in secret for a long time. His son and heir apparent Hamza Shahbaz who runs a business empire of his own, matched his father marriage for marriage and has currently stopped at three.
Though the party has announced that after 45 mandatory days, Shahbaz Sharif will be elected from a National Assembly seat and will take over from Shahid Abbasi as prime minister, but the signs are the party is not united on this. It is feared that if the younger Sharif goes to the centre, it will impac adversely on the elections in Punjab later. And if Punjab is lost everything will be lost.
And if the PML-N MPs even feel there is a possibility that PML-N would not win Punjab the party will slip like sand from under the Sharifs feet. This had happened in 2002 elections when the entire PML-N converted to PML-Q under Shujaat Hussain when the Sharifs went to exile.
The younger Sharif has only one big plus on his side. He is thick with the generals. However history tells us gthat there is no such thing as ‘friend of the GHQ’ in Pakistani politics.
(Mohammed Rizwan is a Pakistani journalist based in Canada)