The Makings of a ‘Non Compliant’ Prime Minister (Opinion)

There’s always an eager crowd waiting as she strides far beyond the heartland of her support base in Lahore. 

In Karachi, Gilgit, Peshawar or Quetta, it seems that a new spell has been cast on the people of Pakistan who seem unable to resist the rise of a woman, a daughter, a leader. 

It helps to be born in political royalty, but how many scions carry this kind of sway with the masses, almost like a magnet? 

Every popular leader enjoys a distinct romance with their people. With Benazir Bhutto, it symbolised the end of a brutal military dictatorship, with Nawaz Sharif, it was about unprecedented development and with Imran Khan, the dream of Naya Pakistan and accountability for all swept the masses. 

So why are people flocking to Maryam, a relatively inexperienced player in the muddy waters of Pakistani politics? 

Maryam Nawaz Sharif, addressing a political rally in Nowshera. Source: Twitter.

Perhaps it’s her non-compliance, her bravery, a principled stance in a country where almost everyone is willing to take orders. 

Is it because that in a nation of ‘Yes Men’, we’ve finally found a woman who refuses to take dictations, who seeks to change the entire political spectrum, who says that enough is enough and means it? 

It’s possible that this is the reason why the masses are attracted to a newer, more amiable character in Pakistan’s politics. 

There are critics too, supported with entire machines to discredit her, attack her, mock her, for being a woman, a democrat, a daughter, an alleged thief. 

Memes on social media show how low our national debate has digressed. Misogyny is one thing, there is a systematic hate campaign against Maryam Nawaz Sharif and yet, whether it’s a small shop or a huge protest rally, the people of Pakistan can’t seem to resist the charm of this new challenger of the status quo. 

But isn’t Maryam’s popularity a dichotomy? Pakistanis, as a nation, have never stood up against Martial Law, let alone the excesses of certain institutions. 

Dictators have come and gone, from Ayub to Zia to Musharraf. Prime Ministers have been hanged, jailed and humiliated but our people have stayed silent, accepted it and in some cases, celebrated it. 

Are the people of Pakistan attracted to Maryam because of her refusal to repeat the mistakes of history?

People admire attributes in leaders they don’t themselves have. Perhaps that’s what makes someone a leader in the first place, they’re able to say what no one else can, they’re able to do what no one can even imagine. 

Ever since Nawaz Sharif took the names of the army chief and DG ISI in a public rally, the veil behind the conflict between the establishment and the opposition has been lifted. 

The cat is out of the bag, no matter how many spin doctors try to sway the narrative on both sides, the people of Pakistan, though docile, are no fools. 

And they know what happens when a political party, or a politician begins to harbour such dangerous illusions. Bhutto was sure of his power, even in jail, he thought that he was going to make it, and the coup would be reversed, and everything would be fine and dandy and Pakistan would be a democracy. Then they hung him.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto addressing a mass rally. Source: Geo News.

They hung him to show what happens when politicians cross the red line. And then they showed what happens when generals cross the red line, again, and again. Nothing. 

In a political environment where every word is measured, where there is a fear of violence simply for analysing certain ideas in non-compliant ways, speaking the naked truth is not only an act of rebellion but can also be considered an act of treason. 

General Pervaiz Musharraf. Source: Files.

Perhaps General Musharraf had the correct understanding of the place of the Constitution of Pakistan. “A piece of paper to be thrown in the dustbin”, in the wise dictator’s words. 

Any commentator, whether in politics or the media is rewarded for showering praise on a new Hybrid regime and on a government that is blatantly controlled by the army but anyone, who dares to mention the constitutional role of institutions and speaks of a true representative parliamentary democracy is “unfavoured”, to say the least. 

A journalist can even address Imran Khan’s rallies, call him their hero and idolise him to the greatest extent possible but their neutrality would never come into question, but dare a journalist praise Maryam Nawaz for her bold stance on the rule of law, then all sorts of enquiries about journalistic integrity and ethics are made. 

This is the dominant narrative in Pakistan at the moment, where mainstream media is smoothly controlled and social media is easily managed, but even then, even after so much hard work has been done to control the rise of Maryam Nawaz Sharif, why is she becoming more popular with every passing day? 

There is no clear answer to this. It could just be Nawaz Sharif’s popularity that Maryam has efficiently capitalised on but as time moves on, she is carving her own identity, distinct from her father. 

Mian Nawaz Sharif (left), Maryam Nawaz Sharif (right). Source: The News International.

Maryam might have Nawaz Sharif’s support base, but she doesn’t have his baggage. She’s new, raw and unfettered by the murky games her father and uncle have played, rather well, once upon a time. 

For her supporters, Maryam represents the dawn of a new era in Pakistan’s politics, where talk of the rule of law and democracy is done openly, bravely and proudly. Even if there are harsh consequences, even if there is torture or the worst forms of coercion, Maryam is inspiring an entire generation of Pakistan to be brave enough, to be ready, for the sake of our future and the future of our next generations. 

We must also decide, as a nation, what qualities do we seek from our leaders? Is it compliance? The ability to make huge promises and then backing down on them? Abusing and demonising political opponents? 

Or is it something else? Bravery? Character? Boldness? Integrity? An inability to take dictations from the unelected?  

If we choose the latter, then Pakistan has a (non-compliant) Prime Minister in the making, Mohtarma Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

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