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The anti-establishment politician.

Only when in governmentIs there such a creature? Here's a quick look back at the major political players of the last fifty years, so that we may have the necessary perspective to answer this question:Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was pro-establishment till he was part of the Ayub Khan administration. In the few years between falling out with Ayub and until the latter was forced to hang up his boots, he was decidedly anti-establishment (albeit different sort of anti-establishment from Sheikh Mujibur Rahman).

During and after the 1970 general elections however, he again found himself in the pro-establishment camp when it was clear that it would be Rahman who will be forming the government in Islamabad. Cut to the post-Bangladesh Pakistan where Bhutto was at the helm (first as president and later as the prime minister), and he was again the standard-bearer of anti-establishment politics.

It was, of course, time for the religious parties and all those in opposition to play the role of the establishment's favourite.General Zia's martial law put an end to Bhutto's rule in 1977 and later in 1979 to his life as well.

Nawaz Sharif was Zia's blue-eyed boy and by extension the blue-eyed boy of the whole establishment. He quickly rose to the posts of the Punjab finance minister and then the chief minister.

When Zia died in that famous plane crash, it was obvious that Benazir Bhutto, hitherto the symbol of anti-establishment politics, was going to become the prime minister. So, it suited Sharif to continue in the pro-establishment camp.

When Benazir did become the prime minister, his sole objective was to get rid of her and to make his way into the PM House with the help of president Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the military. That objective was happily achieved in 1990.Once in office however, Sharif had a major change of heart.

From Nov 1990 through Jul 1993 therefore, he remained fiercely anti-establishment and the champion of civilian supremacy while Benazir was now pro-establishment. This period coincided with Sharif's premiership, which ended when he was forced by Gen Waheed Kakar to resign and go home.

From Oct 1993 through Nov 1996, it was Benazir's turn to be anti-establishment, while Sharif was staunchly pro-establishment. This period coincided with Benazir's premiership.

Sharif's persistence paid dividends when he finally managed to get rid of Benazir through president Farooq Laghari (now a part of establishment). From Feb 1997 through Oct 1999, Sharif was back as the pillar of anti-establishment (he was PM again), while Benazir again took up her former pro-establishment job.

In quick succession Sharif got rid of Laghari, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Gen Jehangir Karamat but perished while trying to pull a fast one on Pervez Musharraf, who promptly put him behind bars.The post 1999 period saw both Sharif and Benazir in exile and the two resolved, in the so-called Charter of Democracy, never to assist the establishment against each otherSince this was a time of martial law, it didn't help Benazir return to power.

The post 1999 period saw both Sharif and Benazir in exile and the two resolved, in the so-called Charter of Democracy, never to assist the establishment against each other. (The promise was later broken by both sides with impunity).

After Benazir's death, president Zardari was the chief advocate for civilian supremacy (as expected) while Sharif was again the captain of the establishment's B-team (starting from some time before the departure of Musharraf, it was Gen Ashfaq Kayani who was calling the shots now). Sharif couldn't have enough of Iftikhar Chaudhry's judicial activism post the judges' restoration movement.

His sermons on the supremacy of law as interpreted by the courts, delivered after the dismissal of prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, represent a high point in his oratorical career. Up until 2013, he also remained gravely concerned about the ideological boundaries and the sovereignty of the nation, hence the memo-gate petition.

After again becoming the PM in June 2013 however, Sharif started giving unmistakable indications that he wasn't the greatest fan of the establishment. Especially, he couldn't bring himself to appreciate Supreme Court judgments nearly as much as he had appreciated them during the Zardari era.

By this time Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaaf had emerged as his main opposition and like other parties before, it had no qualms in occasionally helping the establishment's cause. The next five years also saw Zardari being much more appreciative of the establishment's concerns than he was while president.

It's obvious from this little survey that our politicians have all been anti-establishment. But only when in government.

When in opposition, they have all been pro-establishment. And the transformation between the two states has always been complete and instantaneous.

Barring martial laws, when the prime ministers haven't usually lost much sleep over charming nonsense such as civilian supremacy and statesmanship, this has been the story so far.Humans need heroes and it's well documented that when they don't find men worthy of hero-worship, they manufacture them by inventing fancy things about them.

One completely gets it. That said, will it be too much to ask the enthusiasts to go a wee bit easy on praises of the mythical anti-establishment politician?
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Publication:Pakistan Today (Lahore, Pakistan)
Date:Mar 26, 2018
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