Will the real ‘ladla’ please stand up?

IT hasn’t been long since the day when Mian Nawaz Sharif declared that he was ideological — meaning that he steadfastly followed an ideology.

Decoded, the message read that his politics was governed by some principles. It meant he was no longer prepared to fight for his rights as a politician and not available to do someone else’s bidding.

It was a surprise that no one in the vicinity stood up and corrected Mian Sahib for the grave injustice he was doing to himself — until it fell on the shoulders of the redoubtable Chaudhry Nisar Ali to set the record straight.

In one of his more recent press conferences, the estranged Chaudhry has expressed both surprise and disappointment over the Nawaz assertion which hails him as a recent convert to ideology.

Chaudhry Nisar reminds his erstwhile leader, aptly in the dictionary of the old-school political animals in Pakistan, that Mian Sahib has always been — or at least at at one point in time — the custodian of the ideology championed by the right wing in the country.

Should he care to remember, if with help from this staunch right-winger colleague of his from Rawalpindi, Mr Sharif long promoted himself as the guardian protector of whatever the PPP, centre-left to Chaudhry Nisar’s mind, wanted to destroy.

This, the PML-N politician gone adrift explained at the said news conference, entailed strict vigilance lest any mischief-maker threatened the existence and sanctity of the ideology of Pakistan.

This was sufficient ideology back then, but obviously not enough ideology in today’s situation. At least, it is not the ideology that fits some of our top-notch politicians. These are altogether different times that demand new pledges and antics and vows from certain politicians, not all of which are easily explained.

A lot many remain deeply mired in mystery, so much so that within weeks of discovering his true ideology, presumably the real purpose in his life, Mr Sharif himself may be threatened with a brutal, summary dislodging from his exalted ideological seat — and that too by a person none other than his chief rival in the political arena, Imran Khan.

The PML-N leadership has long been taunting Imran Khan by pasting on him all kinds of nasty identities.

The PML-N leadership has long been taunting Imran Khan by pasting on him all kinds of nasty identities. He has been consistently dubbed as the ladla — the favourite, the blue-eyed boy, of the kingmakers — from the PML-N stage. And the intensity of this chorus against the PTI chief has increased proportionally with each impediment against Mr Sharif’s free movement in Pakistani politics.

One explanation about the recent Imran Khan explosion in which he counter-accused Mian Sahib of being an old and original ladla of the establishment would be that the PML-N refrain is taking its effect on Kaptaan.

This line is consistent with the basic theory that projects the PTI chief as an impatient individual eager to blurt out his version of the truth on the day at the slightest provocation.

In more charitable ledgers where tabdeeli is measured, he is supposed to have improved on this count, meaning that it will now take the agent provocateurs a much longer drill to have him running after them. But has he actually?

To give Imran Khan some credit for his acquired patience, the PML-N slogan about ladla has been all too incessant. Also the image of ladla — as if brought out of books detailing the decline of the Mughal empire — is badly unbefitting the mould of the modern reformist leader Imran has chosen to cast himself in.

It may be that there came a point where he could take it no more and finally decided to lay bare some of the privileges he believed Mian Sahib had enjoyed during his, apparently prolonged, ladla-ship in a previous enactment of the periodic Pakistani democratic theatre.

There were additional advantages drawn out of the disclosure. Not only did Imran suddenly remember the name of the original favourite beneficiary of the country’s politics, in the process, even if briefly, he returned to the theme that had sustained his politics following the 2013 general elections. The theme that the 2013 general elections had been seriously rigged.

We now learn on the good authority of the PTI chief that that particular vote in Punjab had been rigged by the establishment in favour of the real ladla, by the name of Mian Nawaz Sharif, whereas we had been blaming it all on the very clever Najam Sethi Sahib and his handy collaboration with some unknown puncture wallah in the surroundings of the governor’s house in Lahore.

This truth, as mostly happens in cases where the truth does make an appearance, has come out at a rather inopportune moment for some power campaigns.

The irritation caused by repeated labelling aside, there are going to be questions asked. Why would anyone refuse the favourite tag, when such a title could only brighten the power prospects of the allegedly chosen individual? This is going to defy logic and also defy all these promises that hail Imran Khan as the rightly selected leader who has taken 22 long years in the making.

One strong view that seeks to establish Imran Khan’s credentials as a mature leader with finality is unavoidably reluctant to blame it on a slip of the tongue. Imran in his 23rd year as a politician, Imran as the popular voice of Pakistani aspirations, could perhaps still have resisted his old instinct, unless he had a message that he wanted to convey to a specific address — like ‘Sires, you didn’t need to count on anyone else when I was around’.

This same thinking can again be found instrumental in the post-haste merging of the Junoobi Suba Mahaz in the PTI.

There may be many choices at one time. The alternative has to be singular.

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