Friendly gestures & anti-people steps
In her addresses she is pursuing a two-pronged strategy: Blasting Prime Minister Imran Khan for his government’s poor performance; sending signals to the military that her party loves/respects the institution.
She has turned a deaf ear to the ‘mortars’ coming from the PPP, ostensibly to keep the doors of an alliance with this rival-turned-ally-turned-rival at some later stage.
The spouse of a retired army captain, Maryam seems to be using the electioneering also as opportunity to mend fences with the military after her father Nawaz Sharif’s targeted attacks on COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed from the platform of then nascent opposition alliance PDM last year.
For this purpose, she often makes a reference to the armed forces on one pretext or the other and uses positive words for them.
A few days ago, she said in a speech: "I saw young soldiers of the Pakistan Army almost everywhere in the Neelum Valley. I greeted them, and they saluted me. They are stationed far away from their homes to protect us," she said.
She said: "The salaries of soldiers had increased during Nawaz's tenure, and they will not move up in PM Imran's regime; even Nawaz's enemies acknowledge his patriotism."
Maryam also referred to the armed forces as “our armed forces” – an attempt to give an impression that despite her father’s reservations about the incumbent COAS and the ISI chief, the institution is very close to the PML-N’s heart.
However, she still uses the derogatory term of ‘selectors’ for those who had brought Imran Khan to power as a result of 2018 elections.
On Friday, while addressing an election-related meeting in Mirpur, she praised the services of the army personnel, who lay down their lives to secure the lives of the citizens.
Then she talked of the uncontrolled price hike in the country, saying what situation the soldiers would be going through when they receive a message from home that they don’t have enough money (because of price hike) to buy essential items of daily use.
It was an attempt to tell the soldiers that she was sympathetic to their problems.
It is hard to say how the army is viewing the ‘friendly’ statements coming from Maryam Nawaz.
However, Gen Bajwa had said recently that he can tolerate personal criticism but won’t tolerate the institution being targeted by anyone.
Ostensibly, the two sides are sticking to their respective positions, a situation that, in the long run, will go against the PML-N.
It’s an open secret that in our country any party antagonizing the military doesn’t stand a bright future. And at the same time the head and the institution cannot be treated differently.
At a time when people are already groaning under the burden of price hike, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) increased the price of ghee at Utility Stores by almost 53pc from Rs170 to Rs260 per kg and the price of wheat flour by about 19pc to Rs950 per 20kg bag from its existing rate of Rs800.
Likewise, sugar price has been raised from the existing rate of Rs68 to Rs85 per kg, indicating an increase of 25pc.
It is not clear what makes the government believe that people have the capacity to afford the extra burden.
An official statement said the prices were revised owing to an increasing gap between the subsidized prices offered by the USC and the prevailing market prices. The committee “approved revision in prices of three essential commodities to rationalize provision of subsidies by the USC”, it reasoned.
As the elections are getting closer, the government is blindly taking anti-people steps.
Because of these steps the government may be pocketing more revenues, vote bank of the ruling PTI is shrinking at a fast pace.
Lumbered with new price-hike burden every day common mortals give little importance to the ‘achievements’ of the government on other fronts. Therefore, the PTI’s future seems to be bleak, notwithstanding its rosy assessments of its future.