Hara Kiri

The only man to be elected prime min­is­ter three times in South Asia, Nawaz Sharif spoiled it for him­self be­cause he lacked vi­sion and made one bun­gle af­ter an­other.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By S. M. Hali

Nawaz Sharif and his cronies crossed all bound­aries to loot na­tional wealth.

Dis­qual­i­fied from hold­ing pub­lic of­fice, de­barred from hold­ing party of­fice and now, sen­tenced to 10 years in jail by an ac­count­abil­ity court — it has been a year of mas­sive po­lit­i­cal and per­sonal set­backs for Nawaz Sharif.

There are ques­tions be­ing asked by po­lit­i­cal pun­dits re­gard­ing the erst­while PML (N) chief, as to whether he will re­tal­i­ate like a wounded tiger or wither away in the wilder­ness with­out a whim­per? What is the fate of his po­lit­i­cal party?

The prob­lem is that Nawaz Sharif, who is con­sid­ered a sea­soned politi­cian by many an­a­lysts, is in fact far from that. The rea­son that he has been in­car­cer­ated af­ter a lengthy trial and has been re­moved from the man­tle of Prime Min­is­ter on three oc­ca­sions is ow­ing to his my­opic poli­cies and lack of vi­sion.

A brief look at his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer will in­di­cate this. Nur­tured by one of Pak­istan’s most bru­tal mil­i­tary dic­ta­tors, Gen­eral Zia-ul-Haq, Nawaz Sharif tried to shake away the cloak of de­pen­dency on the Army, but in­stead of do­ing so with po­lit­i­cal fi­nesse, he started bad mouthing the Khakis and com­mit­ted hara-kiri each time.

Ver­bal as­saults could have been over­looked but when­ever Nawaz Sharif was in power, he tried to as­sert his supremacy by se­lect­ing an Army Chief of his choice and then fall­ing out with him over mat­ters of pol­icy. Gen­eral Wa­heed Kakar showed him the door be­cause Nawaz Sharif chose to cross swords with Pres­i­dent Ghu­lam Ishaq Khan. Dur­ing his next ten­ure as Prime Min­is­ter, Nawaz Sharif sacked one of the finest Chiefs of the Pak­istan Army, Gen­eral Ja­hangir Kara­mat, only be­cause he had floated the idea of form­ing a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil (NSC) to deal with mat­ters of paramount im­por­tance. Iron­i­cally, while Gen­eral Ja­hangir Kara­mat ren­dered his res­ig­na­tion like a gen­tle­man, Nawaz Sharif went on to form the NSC. His next choice for lead­ing the Army was Gen­eral Pervez Mushar­raf, whom he se­lected af­ter su­per­sed­ing at least three other gen­er­als.

Gen­eral Mushar­raf was se­lected for be­ing a Muha­jir (set­tler) from In­dia. Nawaz mis­cal­cu­lated that Mushar­raf would have no back­ing from eth­nic bas­tions of strength and would re­main sub­servient to him. The same blun­der Zul­fiqar Ali Bhutto had com­mit­ted in nom­i­nat­ing Gen­eral Zi­aul-Haq, whom he con­sid­ered pli­able and ac­qui­es­cent. Gen­eral Zi­aul-Haq be­came Bhutto’s tor­menter-in-chief and not only de­posed him but later hanged him af­ter a du­bi­ous trial.

Nawaz Sharif him­self ig­nited the fire of re­bel­lion in the Army through his inanity, lack of con­cen­tra­tion on strate­gic mat­ters and im­petu­os­ity. When Pervez Mushar­raf briefed the PM re­gard­ing the Kargil Op­er­a­tion, his mind was wan­der­ing else­where. Nawaz Sharif gave tacit ap­proval to the scheme with­out both­er­ing to un­der­stand it, let alone ques­tion its af­ter­math and reper­cus­sions. When Kargil be­came a mat­ter of in­ter­na­tional pres­sure, Nawaz Sharif feigned ig­no­rance.

His great­est bun­gle was sack­ing Gen­eral Mushar­raf, when he was in midair, en­route from Sri Lanka to Karachi af­ter an of­fi­cial visit. The pas­sen­ger air­craft car­ry­ing the Army Chief was re­fused per­mis­sion to land in Karachi and or­der were given to di­vert it to In­dia, where Pervez Mushar­raf would cer­tainly have been ar­rested, since the In­di­ans loathed his guts and the dam­age and may­hem he had caused in Kargil. In the worst case sce­nario, the air­craft would have crashed in the Ara­bian Sea due to lack of fuel.

To rub salt into the wound, Nawaz Sharif sum­moned the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral ISI, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Zi­aud­din Butt, a known friend of the Sharif fam­ily; he was hastily pro­moted as the new Army Chief. The Army top brass re­tal­i­ated and car­ried out a coup d’état, plac­ing Nawaz Sharif and his cronies un­der ar­rest. All this was hap­pen­ing while Pervez Mushar­raf was still in mid air, un­sure of his fate.

Hind­sight is 20/20. Nawaz Sharif would have saved him­self the ig­nominy of be­ing de­posed if he had waited for Gen­eral Mushar­raf to land in Pak­istan and for­mally sacked him in per­son. Keep­ing the deco­rum of the Armed Forces in mind, per­haps Gen­eral Mushar­raf would have ac­cepted the law­ful com­mand but, by try­ing to play gen­er­alis­simo, Nawaz Sharif him­self over­turned the ap­ple­cart of democ­racy and sealed his own fate. He was tried for at­tempted hi­jack­ing of the air­craft car­ry­ing Gen­eral Mushar­raf but rather than face a stiff jail sen­tence and con­sol­i­dat­ing his po­lit­i­cal base, he chose dis­cre­tion to be the bet­ter part of val­our and struck a deal, whereby he was ex­iled for ten years.

Re­turn­ing to Pak­istan in 2007, he fought the gen­eral elec­tions in 2008 but failed to get the req­ui­site num­ber of votes be­cause the Pak­istan Peo­ple’s Party gained sym­pa­thy for its slain leader Be­nazir Bhutto. Nawaz Sharif was re-elected as Prime Min­is­ter af­ter an amend­ment in Pak­istan’s con­sti­tu­tion. Gen­eral Pervez Kiani was the Army Chief when Nawaz Sharif won the elec­tions. Kiani’s term ended that same

year and Nawaz Sharif chose Gen­eral Ra­heel Sharif as the next Army Chief but he soon fell afoul of him. His over­tures to In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and his pro­posed business deals with In­dia did not earn him any brownie points with the Army. Sub­se­quently, the rev­e­la­tions made by the Panama Leaks were not con­jured by the Pak­istan Army. These leaks dis­closed the shady man­ner in which Nawaz Sharif had stashed the na­tional ex­che­quer’s hard earned money into off­shore com­pa­nies and built an in­ter­na­tional em­pire. When ques­tioned, he tried to deal with the al­le­ga­tions su­per­cil­iously and failed to pro­vide the money trail, which brought about his down­fall.

The Fal­staffian na­ture of Nawaz Sharif forced him to rely on the naiveté of his in­ex­pe­ri­enced and im­ma­ture daugh­ter Maryam Saf­dar rather than his de­voted sup­port­ers like Chaudhry Nisar. Maryam let her fa­ther down on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions with her ir­re­spon­si­ble com­ments and reck­less be­hav­iour.

Hav­ing sub­mit­ted them­selves for in­car­cer­a­tion, Mian Nawaz Sharif and his daugh­ter have filed ap­peals in the High Court con­test­ing the Supreme Court ver­dict against them. July 13 was a dis­mal day. On the re­turn of the fa­ther-daugh­ter duo, no PML (N) leader of any con­se­quence came out on the streets. Even Shah­baz Sharif, the younger brother, did take out a rally and was nowhere near the La­hore air­port. There are re­ports of sib­ling ri­valry be­tween the Shar­ifs. If Shah­baz Sharif man­ages to get elected as the next Prime Min­is­ter of Pak­istan, he will take steps to en­sure his dynasty con­tin­ues with the ba­ton be­ing passed on to his son Hamza Sharif rather than niece Maryam Saf­dar. Nawaz Sharif has taken the po­lit­i­cal gam­ble to re­turn to Pak­istan and try and chal­lenge the Supreme Court ver­dict, less to clear his own name and more to in­stall Maryam Saf­dar, whose po­lit­i­cal ca­reer was cut short even be­fore it took off. There is news of Nawaz Sharif reach­ing out to Asif Zar­dari to form the next coali­tion govern­ment. Zar­dari and his sis­ter Faryal also face charges of money laun­der­ing and would per­haps join forces with Nawaz Sharif to pre­serve their own legacy.

Prima fa­cie, with Nawaz Sharif and his daugh­ter be­ing jailed and brother Shah­baz Sharif also fac­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion and bad gov­er­nance, the fate of the PML (N) ap­pears to be doomed. Over 140 for­mer PML (N) par­lia­men­tar­i­ans have ei­ther ditched their par­ent po­lit­i­cal party and joined the ris­ing for­tunes of the PTI or were con­test­ing the elec­tions as In­de­pen­dents to cast their lot with the win­ners. Such is the fate of democ­racy in Pak­istan.

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