So the day finally came for which our whole government had been preparing for since Nawaz Sharif was disqualified from holding any public office. The day of the GT Road March.
Before the day arrived, we were told that this is going to be the largest gathering of humanity Pakistan had or will ever see. But as the day drew closer, PML-N leadership started to downplay its magnitude and started calling it nothing more than journey back to Lahore.
On the day, what has happened is beyond anyone’s imagination. PML-N from the beginning was very confident that it will bring out a sea of humanity, even their opponents agreed that the turnout would be considerable.
Today when Nawaz Sharif left Islamabad, the route which he was suppose to take was all but deserted. Nawaz’s own ride was accompanied by no more than a few hundred vehicles as they started their journey from Blue Area in Islamabad.
As time passed, pressure on PML-N local leadership grew to show their performance as people were no where to be seen. Rana Sanaullah along with the Ahsan Iqbal, the newly minted interior minster took to the streets of the capital and Rawalpindi, trying to figure out where the millions had gone.
Rana Sanaullah figured that it was due to the police barriers that their supporters were having trouble reaching the designated spots. So he got hold of the top cop and gave him a dressing down for closing down roads.
While the ever so efficient ministers were busy finding their supporters, the main caravan of Nawaz Sharif was deliberately inching it’s way towards Zero Point in Islamabad. Sometimes it stopped all together for 20 to 30 minutes for no apparent reason other than to give time to organisers in front of them to gather people.
Things got so bad that not only PML-N supporters but their ministers started tweeting old images of rallies, they were either trying to fool us or were themselves fooled by their own propaganda juggernaut.
By the time Nawaz Sharif made it to the outskirts of Islamabad near Faizabad interchange the strength, according to government’s own estimate, stood at around 8,000 people in total. Only 800 cars were with the march when they turned towards Rawalpindi via Murree Road.
Murree Road is a 4 lane dual carriage way and to fill it up shouldn’t be an issue or so they thought. Hanif Abbasi, the local strongman of PML-N, was responsible for all the arrangements in Rawalpindi. He managed to get enough people to fill one side of the dual carriage way. The other side was converted into a two way street for regular traffic, which kept moving at slow but steady pace.
The fact that there was traffic moving on the adjacent street, that people were going about their business must have hit hard to those in PML-N who had their eyes open. Their initial plan to rest at Jehlum, a town 100KM away from Islamabad was shelved and Punjab house in Rawalpindi was chosen as an alternative resting spot for the disqualified leader.
Now there has been a lot of speculations as to why they postponed the plan but the real reason is that Nawaz Sharif is a spoiled man. He is not used to any kind of hardship. The ‘container’ which was prepared for him wasn’t royal enough for Nawaz.
As planned, Nawaz Sharif did move into the container after they moved out of Islamabad but his stay in it was very brief, lasting hardly 5 minutes. People say that the thought of spending 8 to 10 hours or even more in that thing unnerved the ex prime minister. Looks like Nawaz Sharif, rather quickly, realised that politics of container isn’t for the faint hearted.
Tonight, Nawaz Sharif is resting in Punjab House in Rawalpindi. He did deliver a brief speech from behind a bullet proof glass in a bullet proof container. In it he bashed the judiciary, asked people if they had accepted the order of his disqualification and told them to be ready to take back the power of their vote.
His speech at Rawalpindi has contempt of court written all over it. Moreover it is a call to arms, albeit a subtle one. But what he said to the crowd isn’t something that one would say who is simply “going home” as many in the ruling party have put it.
Nawaz Sharif is on a path of confrontation. He knows that his cases in NAB are ready and that in all likelihood he will be convicted and sent to prison and that will also be the end of PML-N. He now has nothing to lose, his ultimate aim is to somehow come out as a victim, gain sympathy of the masses and ride a popular wave back to the PM house by amending the clause in the constitution on which he was removed.
This is their plan, how successful they will be depends on how much street power they really have. If they really do enjoy the support of the masses then they can indeed return in next elections with enough seats in parliament to amend the constitution without support from any other part, and hence clearing the way from Nawaz’s 4th term.
So far, looking at Day One of the Road Show, and those who know the ground realities of Pakistan, know that the country has totally changed. People have wised up to the lies of the ruling elite. Nawaz Sharif’s elaborate plan looks more like a dream of a delusional old man than something which can be achieved.