PML-N losing its mind or just feathering its own nest

Some really terrible statements have come out of the PML-N leadership in recent weeks, but this one by Shahbaz Sharif really wins the prize:

Gen Musharraf planned a bloodbath of innocent Muslims at the behest of others only to prolong his rule, but we in the PML-N opposed his policies and rejected dictation from abroad and if the Taliban are also fighting for the same cause then they should not carry out acts of terror in Punjab (where the PML-N is ruling),” he said at a seminar held here on Sunday to commemorate the services of late Mufti Muhammad Hussain Naeemi.

That being said, he does raise an interesting point – why would Punjabi militants choose this point in time to attack Lahore when the PML-N government has been publicly reaching out to to the Sipah-e-Sahaba leadership; assisting in the removal of several Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat members from the fourth schedule, etc? It’s possible that the Sipah-e-Sahaba leadership that is getting closer to PML-N (Ahmed Ludhianvi) doesn’t have much control over more hardline elements of the “Punjabi Taliban” like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. [It’s been suggested the the recent round of bombings in Lahore have been to avenge the death of Qari Zafar the leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi by a US drone strike.]

We know that the recent round of attacks in Lahore comes at a time when the PML-N has once again started speaking out against Musharraf and military involvement in politics in general. Just in March there have been unusually harsh anti-military/Musharraf statements by Nawaz Sharif and now Shahbaz Sharif and his son.. Hamza Sharif re-iterated the PML-N’s request to bring Musharraf back to Pakistan to face trial under article 6 which they’ve been silent about since October 2009 (reportedly under Saudi pressure). At the same time PML-N has also made itself virtually unassailable by its support of the judiciary during the NRO and judicial appointments crises. The question is – is the military establishment getting a little nervous about PML-N’s position of strength? Looked at this way, PML-N’s recent decision to renew ties with Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat leadership actually makes sense politically on a larger scale than just Jhang politics – the more powerbrokers that PML-N makes friends with (the Supreme Court, the Lahore High Court, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat), the more difficult it would be for the military to disrupt any future set-ups if and when the PML-N comes to power in the centre.

7 responses to “PML-N losing its mind or just feathering its own nest

  1. Stuka

    I had read your earlier comments and whereas I was s eptical at first reading, it is the SS speech that makes your theory more viable. It is signalling of sorts, especially the mention of Punjab, to differentiate between Army led operations in Waziristan versus lax policy pf protection in Punjab and more so South Punjab.

    I am a bit sympathetic to PML N only because taming the Army is the primary concern, even if it means allying with Jihadi groups. The Jihadi groups at least fight for a higher moral cause. The Pak Army is entirely self centered and selfish to institutional rather than national or Islamic concerns.

  2. grandtrunkroad

    stuka both army and pml-n are allied with jihadi groups. the difference is that no matter how despicable its actions PML-N is ultimately responsive to domestic pressure due to terrorism whereas as we have seen the army is not and will never be.

  3. takhalus

    ‘d like to point out that while the sectarian culture that developed in punjab in the 9os is a discussion in itself ..the politics of jhang is also played out in class terms ..the dominant landlords are shias or barelvi while the locals are sunni. This has a knock on effect on to the local politics ..where the SSP came in..

    Without defending SS ..he did take a very hardline against sectarian violence in his last stint in power but there ambivalence towards sectarian groups also arises from seeing how emotive an issue lal masjid is still with their electorate

  4. grandtrunkroad

    takhalus, jhang politics are truly fascinating. Another contributing factor along with what you’ve mentioned about the class aspect of the shia sunni divide is the location of Rabwah in chiniot which resulted in a disproportionately large amount of hardline khatm-e-nabuwat clerics in jhang plus the mohajir / local divide.

    fully agree with your second point which is why I think PML-N is capable of responding to a local terrorism threat, given that it’s urgent enough.

  5. The class aspect of sectarian violence was also witnessed in the parachinar and khyber agency riots during the 90’s. I think sectarian tendencies have tended to spurt up and then wane out, but their permeation in society remains limited. Spontaneous rioting has hardly ever taken place (neighbors going at one another), which is in all honesty a good thing and slightly reflective of how little exclusivist religion has actually taken footing in Pakistan.

    Please do see the post on Cafe Pyala on Hamid Mirs relationship to this entire SS episode…fascinating stuff

  6. Nadia Rehman

    Nawaz Sharif remains a front runner for power whenever elections are held. Seemingly, he can do no wrong in the public perception. He is the true Teflon man of Pakistani politics. This substance has made him impervious to the mud that sticks so stubbornly to others. Imagine, for a moment, that Asif Zardari had begged the Taliban to spare Sindh because he was a closet fundamentalist, and was as anti-American as they were. All hell would have broken loose. There would have been demands for his immediate impeachment. He would have been accused of treason and worse. The army would have fired off a very public rebuke. And yet, the furore over Shahbaz Sharif’s cringing plea to the Taliban is already subsiding. The media has moved on, and public attention has shifted to other things, mostly the sins of this government.

  7. Jamshed Khattak

    Despite multiplication of Muslim Leagues, the one that matters is Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N. Now calling the shots in Punjab, it has a strong chance of forming the next government at the centre. All it has to do is wait for the next election, and power will fall into its lap like a ripe plum.
    Being as well placed as it is, one would have thought its leaders would behave with a certain amount of dignity and decorum. No chance, as recent events and words have shown. Shahbaz Sharif’s bizarre plea to the Taliban to spare Punjab as his party and the terrorists were on the same wavelength was breathtaking in its insensitivity to public sentiment.
    At a time when the entire country is suffering from a prolonged wave of suicide bombings that has left thousands dead and maimed, the Punjab chief minister’s craven appeal to the Taliban has caused a huge backlash. This newspaper has been flooded with letters from angry readers. Muhammad Jalal Awan writes from Lahore:
    “Shahbaz Sharif’s recent statement imploring the Taliban to back off from Punjab undermines provincial harmony and stymies the establishment’s stance of the current more muscular strategy of rooting out the Pakistani Taliban’s strongholds in South Waziristan and Swat.”
    Despite his protests of being ‘quoted out of context’ — the usual escape hatch for politicians caught with their foot in their mouth — the fact is that Shahbaz Sharif’s plea was a statement of the unvarnished truth. His party is indeed ideologically very close to the Taliban’s extremist position on a wide range of issues.

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