FROM THE EDI­TOR-IN-CHIEF

India Today - - NEWS - (Aroon Purie)

Just when you think things couldn’t get worse for Pak­istan, the coun­try goes ahead and surprises you. Pak­istan had al­ready been put on no­tice by the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion that it can­not be busi­ness as usual till it acts against ter­ror, its re­la­tions with In­dia have reached their nadir and the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice ver­dict on al­leged In­dian spy Kulb­hushan Jad­hav went against it. Its econ­omy is a sham­bles, lo­cal ter­ror­ist groups are flour­ish­ing, and now its demo­crat­i­cally elected prime min­is­ter has been ousted in a ju­di­cial coup. Not that this is the first time. Since 1947, Pak­istan has had as many as 18 prime min­is­ters, with none com­plet­ing their full term. Be­tween 1958 and 1971, the of­fice of the prime min­is­ter it­self was dis­solved, and not for the last time. Pak­istani prime min­is­ters have met var­i­ous fates—as­sas­si­na­tion, over­throw by the army, dis­missal by the pres­i­dent and even dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion by the Supreme Court. In con­trast, In­dia has had 14 prime min­is­ters in the same pe­riod and if their terms have been trun­cated, it has been be­cause of par­lia­men­tary de­feats.

Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif has been re­moved from of­fice, this time by a five­mem­ber bench of the coun­try’s Supreme Court which barred him from elec­toral pol­i­tics for at least five years. It gives him the du­bi­ous hon­our of be­ing re­moved three times while in of­fice—once by the pres­i­dent, then by the army and now by the Supreme Court. The rea­son? Vi­o­la­tion of Ar­ti­cles 62 and 63 of Pak­istan’s Con­sti­tu­tion, which de­mand that mem­bers of Par­lia­ment be ‘sadiq’ and ‘ameen’— ‘truth­ful’ and ‘right­eous’. The provo­ca­tion? The Panama pa­pers, the pop­u­lar term for the work of the In­ter­na­tional Con­sor­tium of In­ves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ists, which showed il­le­gal money laun­der­ing by Nawaz Sharif in the 1990s when he served as prime min­is­ter twice. This was fol­lowed by a court-ap­pointed joint in­ves­ti­ga­tion team amass­ing a 275-page re­port on his fam­ily’s mis­de­meanours, which sealed his fate.

As ever, given our shared his­tory, noth­ing that hap­pens in Pak­istan stays in Pak­istan. For In­dia, a civil­ian ad­min­is­tra­tion is al­ways eas­ier to deal with than a coun­try un­der mil­i­tary rule. Nawaz Sharif was an early friend to the Naren­dra Modi gov­ern­ment, ac­cept­ing with alacrity an in­vi­ta­tion to his swear­ing-in in 2014 and then be­ing a happy host as Modi dropped in on his grand­daugh­ter’s wed­ding in De­cem­ber 2015. The at­tack on the Pathankot air base within a week of that visit in­di­cated the Pak­istani army’s dis­plea­sure with the in­cip­i­ent peace process. Things have gone down­hill from there ever since, with re­newed mil­i­tancy in the Kash­mir Val­ley.

The cover story this week fo­cuses on the trou­bles in Pak­istan, as it strug­gles to re­form its econ­omy, comes to terms with the ‘snakes in its own back­yard’ and grap­ples with China’s in­creas­ing in­ter­ven­tion in its af­fairs. Lahore-based in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ist Wa­ja­hat S. Khan looks at the road ahead, as well as at Nawaz Sharif’s suc­ces­sor and the next po­ten­tial prime min­is­ter, his brother Shah­baz Sharif. Ex­ec­u­tive Edi­tor San­deep Un­nithan analy­ses the im­pact of this po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty on In­dia. Nawaz Sharif was seen as the peace­maker with whom Modi could do busi­ness. Pak­istan’s di­archy of mil­i­tary power and civil­ian gov­ern­ment al­ways poses a dilemma of who In­dia should deal with. Ide­ally, In­dia should work with the duly-elected gov­ern­ment but ev­ery time any sort of agree­ment is reached, it is sab­o­taged by the army.

What hap­pens now that Nawaz Sharif is gone? New Delhi will pos­si­bly wait and watch till af­ter the next gen­eral elec­tion in Pak­istan, due in May 2018. It’s a grim prospect for In­dia. With no hope for di­a­logue, fric­tion on the bor­der will con­tinue as will the spon­sor­ing of mil­i­tants who stoke un­rest in Kash­mir. Even as­sum­ing elec­tions are held as sched­uled, will the per­son who wins the pop­u­lar man­date be al­lowed to run the coun­try? Per­haps, it is time for In­dia to for­get diplo­matic niceties and rec­on­cile it­self to talk­ing with the gen­er­als as well. Maybe peace can come only by en­gag­ing with those who make war.

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