The Third Com­ing

Nawaz Sharif is lead­ing the govern­ment for the third time. But it has not been an easy climb and it is un­cer­tain whether his stay will be any eas­ier.

Southasia - - Cover Story Political Leadership - By S. M. Hali

Mian Nawaz Sharif (MNS) has as­sumed the man­tle of Prime Min­is­ter of Pak­istan for the third time, fol­low­ing Pak­istan Mus­lim League (N)’s sweep­ing vic­tory in the May 2013 polls, plac­ing the el­der Sharif in a po­si­tion to fol­low his man­i­festo in de­liv­er­ing what the Pak­ista­nis de­sire. MNS will serve Pak­istan af­ter a con­stant five-year strug­gle in the op­po­si­tion to the PPP-led govern­ment.

This turn­around to the al­tar of power has been a thorny path: from be­ing de­posed, in­car­cer­ated and later ex­iled for ten years by Gen­eral Pervez Mushar­raf. The 2008 gen­eral elec­tions earned his party very few seats and he had to play sec­ond fid­dle to Zar­dari’s PPP. De­spite be­ing a sig­na­tory to the Char­ter of Democ­racy with Be­nazir Bhutto and hav­ing joined the coali­tion govern­ment of PPP, MNS had to suf­fer the ig­nominy of ridicule and be­ing let down by a re­cur­rently reneg­ing Zar­dari. MNS got a num­ber of chances to ex­ploit the cor­rup­tion, mis­man­age­ment and bad gov­er­nance of the PPP led govern­ment and set the Zar­dari co­terie pack­ing through street power but even at the cost of earn­ing the du­bi­ous ti­tle of a “friendly op­po­si­tion”, MNS con­fined his party to par­lia­men­tary prac­tices, not want­ing to up­set the ap­ple­cart of democ­racy. Mean­while, his younger brother Mian Shah­baz Sharif, for­mer Chief Min­is­ter of Pun­jab, gained pop­u­lar­ity through de­vel­op­ment and re­lief projects.

The per­sis­tence and pa­tience of MNS bore fruit, as the peo­ple re­jected PPP for its cor­rupt and in­ef­fi­cient rule and fa­vored MNS for stick­ing to demo­cratic prin­ci­ples. Apart from that, MNS ran a fierce elec­tion cam­paign while his vo­ra­cious ap­petite for suc­cess was whet­ted by an equally ag­gres­sive elec­tion cam­paign run by Imran Khan and his Pak­istan Tehreeki-In­saf (PTI), which bru­tally at­tacked the poli­cies and past weak­nesses of MNS. PTI made a se­vere dent in the vote bank of PML (N), grab­bing 30 seats in the National Assem­bly, which di­vided the votes in fa­vor of PML (N)’s op­po­nents. How­ever, MNS achieved vic­to­ries, both in Pun­jab and the Cen­tre, gain­ing vic­tory to lead the National Par­lia­ment with­out the crutches of coali­tion part­ners, who usu­ally de­mand their prover­bial pound of flesh for their sup­port and be­come a mill­stone around the neck of par­lia­men­tary lead­ers.

MNS’s elec­toral suc­cess has be­grudg­ingly been ac­cepted by his op­po­nents al­though there are com­plaints of rig­ging in some polling cen­ters in Pun­jab and Karachi, which is be­ing ex­am­ined by the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion of Pak­istan. Over­all, the states­man-like at­ti­tude of MNS has won him the re­spect of his op­po­nents. He has not only reached out to all his ri­vals, ex­tend­ing them the olive branch, but also per­son­ally vis­ited Imran Khan at a lo­cal hos­pi­tal, where he is re­cu­per­at­ing fol­low­ing in­juries re­ceived in a cam­paign ac­ci­dent. The visit helped take the sting out of the bit­terly con­tested elec­tion cam­paign and urged both lead­ers to jointly strive to re­solve the myr­iad prob­lems Pak­istan is fac­ing.

The two pre­vi­ous tenures of MNS as the Par­lia­men­tary leader earned him mixed re­views. Whereas he strove to im­prove the econ­omy of Pak­istan, the heavy man­date gave him a swollen head. He sacked two Ser­vices Chiefs, be­com­ing em­bold­ened to crack­down on a dis­sent­ing me­dia, take on the Pres­i­dent and the Chief Jus­tice and un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously sack his own hand­picked Army Chief, Gen­eral Pervez Mushar­raf, which pre­cip­i­tated a coup d’état and a decade’s ex­ile for him. Hope­fully he has learnt his les­son and will be more ac­com­mo­dat­ing to jus­ti­fied crit­i­cism and not fly off the han­dle, seek­ing vengeance. He does bring the ex­pe­ri­ence of two in­com­plete terms but much has changed in the four­teen years since his last ten­ure of of­fice, when there was no free, vi­brant and vo­cal me­dia, which does not mince words while dig­ging up mis­deeds of the govern­ment. MNS will have to learn to deal

In his elec­tion man­i­festo, Nawaz Sharif has been vo­cif­er­ous to­wards re­solv­ing the prob­lems fac­ing Pak­istan. Fore­most among them is ter­ror­ism, which has taken a heavy toll on the na­tion and tar­geted the elec­tion cam­paigns of a num­ber of main­stream po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

with this new phe­nom­e­non in the Pak­istani mi­lieu and in­stead of try­ing to si­lence the me­dia, he will have to en­sure that his party does not of­fer any chances to an ob­ser­vant and crit­i­cal me­dia.

In his elec­tion man­i­festo, MNS has been vo­cif­er­ous to­wards re­solv­ing the prob­lems fac­ing Pak­istan. Fore­most among them is ter­ror­ism, which has taken a heavy toll on the na­tion and tar­geted the elec­tion cam­paigns of a num­ber of main­stream po­lit­i­cal par- ties. The change of horses in Pak­istan has come at a very crit­i­cal junc­ture. By 2014, the in­ter­na­tional forces are likely to draw­down but Afghanistan re­mains strife torn. If peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is not es­tab­lished, there is a strong like­li­hood of an in­ternecine war, which will ad­versely af­fect Pak­istan. Tehreek-e-Tal­iban Pak­istan is hell bent upon wreak­ing havoc and un­less they are reined in with a com­bi­na­tion of ag­gres­sion and ne­go­ti­a­tion, they will con­tinue to bleed Pak­istan.

The other press­ing is­sues are that of a shat­tered econ­omy, tot­ter­ing un­der mas­sive for­eign debts and acute power short­age, ex­ac­er­bated by some du­bi­ous power rental deals. MNS and his team of won­der boys will have to pull off mir­a­cles oth­er­wise, within weeks, the same vot­ers who have glee­fully voted him into power, will take to the streets de­mand­ing ac­tion. In­ter­est­ingly, de­spite tak­ing credit for the nu­clear tests, MNS has been silent on the pro­cure­ment of civil nu­clear en­ergy, which is the de­mand of the day.

Ex­te­rior ma­neu­ver or for­eign pol­icy has not been MNS and his team’s forte. He has al­ready com­mit­ted faux pas in his re­cent in­ter­view in a pro­gram “Devil’s Ad­vo­cate” on GNNIBN to Karan Tha­par; MNS had a dis­course on ev­ery sub­ject con­cern­ing In­dia with­out hav­ing any re­gard to stated national poli­cies. In his ex­u­ber­ance to­wards por­tray­ing him­self as a peacenik, he for­got to men­tion about state ter­ror­ism spon­sored by In­dia against Pak­istan through its agents like Sarab­jit Singh. He did not ut­ter a word on the cold-blooded mur­der of Pak­istani pris­oner Sanaullah in an In­dian jail and nary a thought on the core is­sue of Kash­mir, much to the cha­grin of Kash­miris. Be­ing a trader, MNS is ob­sessed with trade with In­dia, but he needs to en­sure that it is on an even keel with­out com­pro­mis­ing national sovereignty. MNS has also been crit­i­cal of the Iran-Pak­istan gas pipe­line pro­ject. It is not clear whether he was prompted by Iran’s arch ri­val Saudi Ara­bia or some other de­trac­tor. Pak­istan is def­i­nitely fac­ing an en­ergy short­age and the IranPak­istan Gas Pipe­line is a done deal and should not be shelved un­der any pre­text or for scor­ing brownie points with the Saudis.

Sharif will have to prove that he is a prag­matic leader, who has his fin­gers on the pulse of the peo­ple and will de­liver on his cam­paign prom­ises of pro­vid­ing them re­lief. He may be ow­ing fa­vors to the Saudis for hav­ing granted him asy­lum dur­ing his ex­ile and a few other for­eign coun­tries, with whom he or his fam­ily have com­mer­cial re­la­tions. How­ever, af­ter as­sum­ing the man­tle of power, he will have to live up to his claims of be­ing a suc­ces­sor to the orig­i­nal Mus­lim League by not com­pro­mis­ing national in­ter­ests in an overzeal­ous at­tempt to ap­pease In­dia. Af­ter all freedom for Pak­istan was ob­tained to pur­sue the as­pi­ra­tions of the Mus­lims of the Sub-Con­ti­nent, for whom with­out In­de­pen­dence, it would have been a change of masters from the Bri­tish to the Hin­dus.

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