Leader who used to provoke Nawaz against Benazir to face their parties
When Mian Nawaz Sharif became the Punjab chief minister for a second time as a result of the 1988 elections, he had the strongest backing of the establishment because everyone knew how close the industrialist-turned-politician was to General Ziaul Haq, the man who had overthrown the PPP government in July 1977 and then ruled the country for about 11 years without much resistance.
These elections, held after Gen Zia’s death in an air crash, had brought Benazir Bhutto to power at the federal level – a development not tolerable for the powers-that-be.
Those days a man from Rawalpindi was very close to Nawaz Sharif and he used to provoke him against the federal government.
“Mian Sahib, Tun Kay Rakho” was the advice he used to give to the Punjab chief minister, encouraging him to give the prime minister a tough time. Many in the party used to clap for the advice, especially so because the target was a woman.
The man who used to give the above-mentioned advice to then chief minister Nawaz Sharif was none else but Sheikh Rashid, the erstwhile minister for railways who has been assigned the portfolio of the interior ministry in a cabinet reshuffle on Friday.
Mr Sharif faithfully stuck to anti-Benazir policy till her government was dismissed by then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan after her 18 months in office.
This sad chapter of history has been recalled because it has special significance for Sheikh Rashid.
When ‘the chronic bachelor’ of Rawalpindi used to provoke MNA against Benazir, he did not have the remotest idea that the Lord of the Worlds may one day put him in a similar situation. He is now the interior minister, an office by virtue of which he is required to deal with the daughter of the same Nawaz Sharif who, along with the PPP leaders and supporters, is out to dislodge the PTI government.
It is also a matter of record that it was Sheikh Rashid who had first given Mr Asif Zardari the title of Mr 10 Percent.
Prominent lawyer Khwaja Tariq Rahim, who was with the PPP at the time, had, in return, called Sheikh Rashid “Mr Cent Percent”.
Arch-rivals of the past PML-N and the PPP have now formed an alliance with nine other parties of various shades of opinion, and they are scheduled to hold a public meeting at Minar-i-Pakistan lawns on Sunday (December 13).
This will be the first challenge Sheikh Rashid will be facing as interior minister. His capabilities will be tested in the days and weeks ahead.
As for the anti-PTI government led by Maryam Nawaz, it is expected to intensify in the times ahead.
The reason is very simple. Her father is the product of confrontation. He grew in stature by taking on the federal government. His relations with various army chiefs and judges have also been tense. Because of this, he is regarded as a confrontationist.
Maryam has also seen the magical results of her confrontational politics in a very short time.
Because of her fiery speeches against the PTI leadership, she has left behind everyone in the party – no matter how senior -and emerged as a mature leader. She is not expected to review the strategy that brought her incalculable dividends.
If she continues to tread the same course, she will emerge as the real challenger to the prime minister.
Bilawal has also grown in stature because of the prevailing situation.
Whatever the outcome of Sunday’s public meeting, Maryam and Bilawal will remain a subject of discussions for a long time.