In Pakistan, democracy is a plant which is taken out of its pot every few years to examine how well it has sunk its roots. It seems that the time has come to do precisely this. A 'coalition of the willing' has been put together to remove Nawaz Sharif. We are back to square one.
How do I know that Nawaz Sharif's time is up? Well, I ask two questions. The first is about the length and strength of the coalition. It now includes the trio of unabashedly democratic parties: JI, PTI and Sheikh Rasheed's AML. It includes Supreme Court judges who have called baby-faced Nawaz Sharif "Godfather". It also includes roughly every single nationalist, right-minded and noble-hearted TV anchor and print journalist.
The second question I ask is: What is my clairvoyant friend Ayaz Amir saying? Pro-Establishment Ayaz Amir has broken the record by writing three dozen columns lately, every single one lambasting Nawaz Sharif. But his last one has finally convinced me it is time for Nawaz Sharif to go. He has announced, presumably after doing creative detective work, that "all four Pakistani dictators put together have made less corrupt-money than Nawaz Sharif."
Nawaz must go. But a few small gadfly-hurdles, like unexpectedly good batting by the tail in an almost-won cricket match, are annoying every right-minded Pakistani. The first and foremost is that even as the coalition of the willing seems so formidable and unstoppable, the vast majority of Pakistanis are stupidly, irritatingly but solidly behind Nawaz Sharif. Imran Khan has tried his level best to educate these bothersome Jungla-bus nobodies but they stubbornly keep voting in Nawaz Sharif's favour. If elections are held in 2018, the chances are that Imran Khan will lose even in KP, let alone in Punjab. The poor man needs all the extra help he can muster.
Second hurdle: In addition to the idiotic crowds voting for Nawaz Sharif, voters at the other side of the spectrum, namely investors in Pakistani stock market, are exiting the market in droves. The index is falling like a heavy stone thrown from the Empire State building. It has already lost 7000 points and tens of trillions of rupees, and the JIT has not even finished interviewing second cousins of Nawaz Sharif. Imran Khan is scratching his head, murmuring: "I wanted Pakistanis to invest at home but the moment I open my mouth the market falls."
With the collapse of Pakistan's stock market, the entire economic train is in danger of being derailed. Pakistan is now a country of exploding population, vanishing jobs, energy and water-deficiency, and lack of education and health facilities. On top of it, the country is wracked by extremism and terrorism. Since 2013, for the first time in decades, some hope was kindled that the Nawaz government would help improve things. Things improved. Or maybe it is because things improved that he must go?
Now, if you were to follow JIT proceedings, TV anchors' snide remarks and smug grins, PTI's ferocious broadsides, PPP's claims of no-tolerance for corruption, JI and PAT's love for democracy, and the hidden WhatsApp community's respect for the Supreme Court, you would imagine that Pakistan's external environment resembles Switzerland's. Time for a reality check.
If we remove Nawaz Sharif, we will either end up with a hung Parliament and thus no progress over the next five years, or worse, with no Parliament. Politicians will again get the signal that if you cannot win elections you can use other routes to power
The new tweet-president of the US Donald Trump is now indicating he has had enough of Pakistan. Iran is mad at us for not controlling terrorists who are killing their guards with long-range rifles. Afghanistan's President is livid. India is firing at our borders as a morning ritual, even as our army is busy taking care of the bad guys. Saudi Arabia's quarrel with Iran and Qatar, and our leadership of the Islamic NATO, are not helping us either. The windows of the world on our travellers are closing.
Will the removal of Nawaz Sharif lessen corruption? It will increase it. Will it stabilize Pakistan? No, because for stability we need democracy over the long-term. If we remove Nawaz Sharif, we will either end up with a hung Parliament and thus no progress over the next five years or worse, with no Parliament. The politicians will again get the signal that if you cannot win elections you can use other routes to power. Others will sit out the next decade and then make a comeback at the right time. It will be exactly as it has been. Déjà vu all over again. Pakistan is experiencing Groundhog Day ad nauseam, but with no learning.
I think it is time to take out the plant to examine its roots. It is time for Nawaz Sharif to go.
Dr. Aamir Khan has worked as a diplomat in China. He writes for the Daily Times.
Published in Daily Times, June 24th, 2017.