The 5th Column

17th October 1999

Some words of advice to Nawaz Sharif

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My Dear Nawaz Sharif,

Though I am writing this letter to you I'm not certain whether it will reach you as I'm told you are presently under house arrest. Nevertheless, I must write to you because it appears that you need a lot of advice.

Now, Sharif, the odd thing about the coup that ousted you was that when the Army took over, the people remained silent. There were no protests, no clashes and it appears that no one bothered that you were no longer Prime Minister.

Why was that, Sharif? Everyone says it is because your government was unpopular. Now, if that is the case, you have only yourself to blame. Why, Sharif, everyone knows that after a few years in office, governments become unpopular but there are special ways of dealing with that and I thought I must offer a few hints on that.

Say, after five years or so in office, you could organize a massive demonstration in your support. You could offer a T-shirt and a meal to anyone who comes to Islamabad on that day and then say that a million gathered in support of your farsighted leadership. Now, don't tell me that will be a colossal waste of money, because it is not your money that you are wasting.

Then, periodically you must make little gestures to show that you want to reduce the burden on the people. You can maybe reduce the price of sugar a little bit or postpone a bus fare hike. You may even increase the price of cigarettes- the smokers won't mind that anyway and their wives will vote for you!

Maybe you could have taken massive advertisements in newspapers trying to highlight what little you have been doing all these years. I know you will argue that might expose your faults but you can always find a good advertising agency to gloss over those and highlight your plus points. Of course, what I really cannot understand is how you made a blunder in appointing your Army Chief, the fellow who ultimately ousted you.

Why, Sharif, surely you must know by now that in third world countries like yours you only appoint your trusted people to position such as the Chief of Police, the Chief of the Army and the Chief Justice!

If I were you, Sharif, even if the Magistrate of Islamabad gave a decision against you, I would promptly have him interdicted on some flimsy charges- these are the tricks of survival in democracies such as ours!

Then, Sharif it is also important to appear at a few international events and get those pictures out on the local media.

That way, the people feel they have a leader of international stature and are bound to overlook your little faults. And what's more it also allows you the opportunity to get away from the country when an embarrassing debate or protest is on.

But unfortunately, Sharif I do not know whether all this advice will be of any help to you because it may be too late to undo the damage now. Even then, you must try.

Yours truly,

Punchi Putha.

PS- Really, Sharif, you should never have allowed Benazir to go to London. These women politicians claiming that they are being hounded in their own country and seeking refuge in London are a dangerous type.

When the time is ripe and after all those they left behind have done the hard work, they just catch the next flight home and become Prime Minister. And worse still, they bring all the crooks and nannies they befriended there and stuff them into their administration. Now, mark my word Sharif, that is just what Benazir is bound to do!

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