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Welcome Mian Nawaz Sharif

14 May, 2013

By Saeed Qureshi

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It is after a long spell of remaining in political wilderness that Mian Nawaz Sharif has staged a stunning comeback into the political arena of Pakistan. The 14 years that he has been cast away, he has witnessed and gone through the most torturous times and phases of extreme sufferings, grinding isolation and burgeoning stress. The people of Pakistani have elected him in May 11 elections to lead the nation as its prime minister. It is a massive demonstration of confidence that the electorate in Pakistan have reposed in him.

In the wake of a bizarre turn of developments, Mian Nawaz Sharif was deposed by the Pakistan army in October 1999 and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf became the new head of the state. Now the situation has taken a 360 degree turn. The man, who deposed, incarcerated and exiled Mian Nawaz Sharif and his family is now a captive in his own palatial mansion declared as sub jail. Strange are the intricacies of politics.

It is a well-earned and well-deserved victory. It has come through a genuine democratic process known as adult franchise. The allegations of rigging this time seem to be far-fetched and untrue. The army has played its role commendably in the reinforcement and continuation of democratic order in Pakistan. Even otherwise there couldn't be any plausible or earthly reason for the armed forces to scuttle or sabotage the elections.

From the preparation of the electoral lists to the final casting of votes, the environment was relatively and to a greater degree conducive. There was a passionate urge both from the political parties and the people of Pakistan for the elections to be held so that the new elected governments could be formed at the center and in provinces.

By the grace of God and by the resolute willingness of the people, despite the tedious and apprehension ridden period, the elections have finally come through and with a fair degree of peace and poise. The elected people are not angles but what is central to this coveted exercise is that they have been elected through the mandate given by the people of Pakistan.

Both Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif are die-hard patriots. They are true Pakistanis and steadfast nationalists. We would have welcomed Mr. Khan in the same exuberant vein as we are extending a very warm and hearty welcome to Mian Nawaz Sharif. It hardly matters who the leader is. What really matters is who enjoys the trust and support of the people. As far as Mian Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan are concerned their integrity and personal commitment to the welfare of Pakistan is indisputable.

We are also very happy that Imran Khan' PTI would be able to form the government in the disturbed and turmoil ridden province of Khyber Pashtoons Khawa (KPK). It is hoped that the bomb blasts and suicide attacks by Taliban and their ilk would come to halt or at least subside. That is going to be a huge redeeming feature of Imran Khan's victory in the troubled KPK province. Amazingly the ANP that for decades was politically well-entrenched in KPK has to suffer a crushing defeat. It is for the first that ANP's stalwarts have lost most of their traditional seats. This establishes the cardinal truth that the people are the ultimate arbiters and choosers of their rulers.

 A very distinct and novel tradition of outflanking the invincible political top-nothes has been established and that augers well for flowering and fostering of a democratic culture in Pakistan. This pleasant and promising trend has also been witnessed elsewhere in the country where unassailable members of aristocracy, the elitists and feudal classes have been uprooted and lost their seats which they have been holding for decades.

Whenever President Asif Ali Zardari was questioned about the assassins of his wife and chairperson of the PPP, Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto, he parried it by a vague phrase that democracy was the best revenge. One would wonder what would he mean by revenge of democracy but certainly it has turned on the PPP leadership who lost the confidence of the people to such an extent that they could win only 31 seats at the center.

The PPP rank and file is demoralized and its structure shattered as a result of the May 11 polls. In 2013 elections PMLN has won 126 seats. It is up by55 (71 in 2008) seats. The PPP is down by 66(91 in 2008) seats. Of the total strength of 272, a party needs 137 to form the government at the federal level. PTI trails third with 29 seats.

The new prime minister and for that reason the winning party PMLN would face a plethora of serious and intractable issues. The advent of PMLN into power corridors is not going to be like entering into a garden party. A whole range of thorny problems would be staring at the face of the new government. The abundance availability of social services ranging from water, power, roads, education, health, to social justice and jobs are priority issues. In addition boosting shattered economy, reining endemic corruption, rampant terrorism and fragile law and order, to name a few would have to be addressed on war footing.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been profusely felicitated by the world leaders, including King Abdulla of Saudi Arabia, the UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon, president Obama, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India. With such enormous reservoir of goodwill one would hope for a positive change on Pakistan's external front.

Pakistan needs durable peace within the region and a greater understanding and amiability and good image elsewhere. As the United States would be vacating Afghanistan, Pakistan would the best indispensable partner to look after the interests of United States. It might also be possible that Taliban and other militant bands can be inducted into Afghanistan's political set up.

Those Taliban and stray militants who are in Pakistan, can somehow be pacified through a mechanism that does not bring the society under their sway, There are gigantic hurdles that have to be surmounted by the new government as part of rebuilding a new prosperous, socially modern,  geographically stable and peaceful, economically vibrant and militarily strong Pakistan. It seems a tall order but if "there is a will there is a way".

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat.

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