“The country isn’t half worked out because those that govern it won’t let you touch it. They spend all their blessed time in governing it and you can’t lift a spade, nor chip a rock, nor look for oil, nor anything like that without all the government saying, ‘leave it alone and let us govern’. Therefore, such as it is, we will let it alone and go away to some other place where a man isn’t crowded and can come to his own. We are not little men, and there is nothing that we are afraid of except drink, and we have signed a contract on that. Therefore, we are going away to be kings.” Rudyard Kipling, “The Man who would be King” There is a time to be a king. There are also times when you can’t be, but some keep trying ever so desperately as is amply evidenced by the treacherous, behind-the-curtain manoeuvrings of the ones who were perceived as closest to the king. Et tu, Brute! Let’s look at it from another perspective. Most of us dream of being a king. There are some who are anointed but don’t deserve to be, and there are those who merit being kings, but remain languishing in the annals of the unknown. Our history is not much different. We have had pedestrians hoisted as the masters and we have had honourable people who could have made wonderful leaders, but didn’t have the cunning and the deceitfulness to beat the system. Nawaz Sharif has had the longest stint of sharing the corridors of power with the ones who manage these things in the country – not one, not even twice, but three times as the chief executive. Additionally, he was twice the chief minister of the largest province of the country. His grip on the party was never quite openly challenged because he did not establish his authority solely by the dint of his suitability to the job. He did so by laying open stacks of cash to purchase the loyalties of his followers. Once he had introduced this despicable mechanism to the political arena, others followed suit and we had an unceasing trail of perverts who willingly sold their souls to become the measly sycophants of the leader. To stamp his name permanently on the seat of power, he even attempted to have himself sanctified as the Amir-ul-Momeneen of the righteous. This attempt was thankfully thwarted by an internal rebellion within the party. But, while he was busy engraving an indelible place for himself in the select domain of the political elite, there were others who were busy orchestrating to replace him by offering their services as faithful alternates to the powers that be. While the nocturnal sorties of the younger Sharif to the power base have not been a secret, it is now a well-established reality that there were at least two others who were undertaking similar jaunts in their bid to oust the head honcho: Messrs Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Ishaq Dar. In every conceivable way, and using all gullible tricks, they were there as the potential servants of the powers to replace the errant Sharif who had a habit of ruffling some feathers. The current perception of the judiciary going soft on the two of them is not totally ill-conceived. There is considerable logic behind the theorising which is rooted in the liking in the court of the powers for the two rebel boys. Disposing of the Hudaibya Paper Mills case without holding Ishaq Dar to account for the over 40-page confessional statement for money-laundering for the Sharifs provides ample reason for the grapevine chatter. So, here it is to some testing times for the Sharifs and, inevitably, for the Bhutto/Zardaris. Politics in Pakistan may no longer be a pastime for the faint-hearted. It appears to be a long haul for the alleged guilty who, in the past, contrived to escape the clutches of law by manipulating the state institutions. Well, not quite so any longer! Chaudhry Nisar’s happy-now-angry-now tantrums were cleverly timed with the swaying of the civil-military (read Nawaz-GHQ) relations. When these were relatively stable, the intending rebel would lie low. But, when the tide would get rough, he would dash to the powers’ bastion to reassure them that he was available and eager to do a stint. Well, these parleys were never really kept secret as, by an intelligent sharing of such information, the errant boy could be kept in place. Ishaq Dar was a self-confessed money-launderer, yet proceedings against him were quashed and he was often heard claiming that it was a past and dead transaction and could not be resurrected again. The Hudaibya Paper Mills case was an open and shut one, yet the court adjudicated against reopening it because relief was to be provided to one of the powers’ favourite rebel boy. The conflict between the Sharif siblings is not a new one. It is rooted in a belief among the younger Sharif’s family that he had been wronged by the older one and his ‘legitimate’ claim to the top office was not granted. Instead, the spectre of Maryam Nawaz was raised – thus even dousing the political prospects of the next generation, more particularly that of younger Sharif’s progeny. This added to the immense bitterness which had already existed over a long period of time among the two families and it was widely known that they were not even on speaking terms. While there were provocations for the younger Sharif to agitate openly, he resisted, thus stopping the boat from capsizing. But, he kept to the devious task and remained lurking on the side, waiting ever so deceptively to strike when an opportunity would come his way to serve his stint as the loyal lieutenant. While Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Ishaq Dar may be history in terms of potential to ascending the coveted throne, it is the younger sibling who is still deeply engaged in, first, manoeuvring his way (read NRO) out of the tight spot that he is caught up in and, then, trudging along gradually into the echelons of contention for power. His repeated pre-election assertions regarding the need for a change of PMLN narrative and his losing the way to the airport to receive the older sibling who arrived, suffering caustically from the delusion that his followers would lie in front of the tanks to catapult him into power again, were all indications of his duplicitous spots. The fact that he appears to be caught in the net of his own weavings is simply because of a spate of serious misdemeanours and rank wickedness that he is guilty of and, in view of the changed dynamics with regard to the working of the state institutions, it is no longer possible for any individual to sign the sheet of his acquittal. The cases against him are not on the fast track for disposal and he is also getting increasingly frustrated at the lack of response that he has so far received to his many overtures for a bailout package. Indications are that he was also not happy being forced to shaking the Zardari hand as he would have liked to continue playing the familiar cards of buying his freedom through more tried and tested methods. But, then, things in the party may not be within his control. So, here it is to some testing times for the Sharifs and, inevitably, for the Bhutto/Zardaris. Politics in Pakistan may no longer be a pastime for the faint-hearted. It appears to be a long haul for the alleged guilty who, in the past, contrived to escape the clutches of law by manipulating the state institutions. Well, not quite so any longer! The writer is a political and security strategist, and heads the Regional Peace Institute – an Islamabad-based think-tank. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @Raoof Hasan Published in Daily Times, January 27th 2019.