Swarmed by thousands of charged political workers, Allama Iqbal International Airport was bristling with slogans and chanting for a woman coming all the way from London to Pakistan. Maryam Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan on 28 January 2023 after four months abroad. The television screens reminded every conscious Pakistani and PML-N worker of her late mother, Kalsoom Nawaz Sharif, who struggled against the dictatorship of General Musharraf when the party suffered defections in large numbers and the PML-N’s top leadership was either in prison or exiled by the military top brass in the early 2000s.
In the current political climate riddled with agitative, right-wing, and reactionary populism propagated by the PTI and its demagogic leader, Imran Khan, the return of Maryam Nawaz to Pakistan provided a breath of fresh air to the stifled democratic forces of Pakistan.
In a flurry of political activity, which is fast exposing the fragility and vulnerabilities of the democratic politics of Pakistan, Maryam Nawaz’s return closely resembles the politics of her late mother in the aftermath of the military coup in 1999. It was a time when hopelessness among the PML-N workers was at its peak as the party had been badly damaged and its members and workers were either muzzled, coerced into submission, or jailed. Being the only woman of national stature present in Pakistan at that time, Kalsoom Nawaz not only weathered the tyranny of the Musharraf regime but also tried to manage party affairs and kept it afloat with her courage and dedication.
Maryam Nawaz was by her mother’s side to face all these trials and tribulations. Destiny always has something in store for everyone. Today, Kalsoom Nawaz is no longer among us. Yet her spirit lives among us in the shape of Maryam Nawaz, who has emerged as a formidable democratic force.
Now, as restlessness finds its way into politics and party workers grow demoralized in the face of rising financial troubles, the arrival of Maryam Nawaz on the political scene can change the direction of politics not only for Punjab but also for Pakistan. While she is respected for being the daughter and political heir of the party leader Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, her charisma as a crowd puller and as the party’s face is unmistakable. It is due to her ability to galvanize the masses that she has been appointed as the chief organizer and senior vice president of PML-N.
Maryam is destined to lead the country through the crises created by the project Naya Pakistan under the quasi-fascist rule of Imran Khan. Militarism can be defeated with democracy; while fascism can only be defeated by more democracy and steadfastness — a lesson rightfully learnt by Maryam Nawaz. She believes in political reconciliation to buttress democracy and to uplift the wretched of the earth from their abysmal state of existence. Therefore, the nation has awarded her the title of Dukhtar-e-Pakistan.
Maryam signifies an unspoken but well-understood fight against fascism couched in the populism of Imran. Her message, like that of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, appeals to the rational forces of Pakistan. Since the start of Project Imran Khan and its demagoguery, the nation has been besieged by rhetorical propaganda spinning around the clock and doctoring falsehoods and fabrication. In this scenario, Maryam stood as a valiant force to ward off the filth being spread by her opponents against democracy and polity. People trust her and listen to what she says.
But it is just the beginning. Maryam has valiantly survived filthy attacks from Imran Khan and his troll army called the PTI. Her opponents are people with an uncanny ability to degrade their adversaries and run character assassination campaigns against them without any discrimination of race, class, or gender — a typical example of Goebbelsian tactics. She can expect an avalanche of fabricated and paid social media campaigns being launched by the PTI and its vloggers, who claim to be journalists under the guise of analysts and media anchors, to distort public minds and create a negative opinion against PML-N. The antidote to the quasi-fascism and populism of PTI is for her to bring new faces from the grass-root level to reorganize and make it a people-oriented party, which believes in true democratic ethos.
Maryam has arrived at a time when general voters of PML-N are worried and the party is facing criticism over the nine-month performance of the PDM, despite knowing the fact that economic problems being faced by the common man are not an outcome of the current government’s policy, rather they are outcomes of project Naya Pakistan and its mafia-style plundering of Pakistan.
The Herculean task in front of Maryam is to purge the ever-expanding filth created by Imran Khan. In an environment saturated with parochialism and misogyny, Maryam Nawaz is not only the hope for the general masses of Pakistan but also for marginalized women, who are mainly voiceless as well as powerless in the societal setup of Pakistan. In the end, I would like to reinvent a quote from Gramsci as follows: “the old is dead and the new is born.” In this reincarnation of a new force, there arises hope for a democratic and prosperous Pakistan.