Getting Rid of Nawaz Sharif!

Nilesh Kunwar
August 5, 2017 OPINION 333 Views

Whatever one might say but ask any seasoned Pakistan watcher and he will tell you that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had it coming for a long time and the Panama leak was just an excuse. The reality is that Sharif cooked his own goose the day he decided to disregard the army’s reservations about his going to New Delhi for attending the oath taking ceremony of his Indian counterpart Narender Modi. The army did its best to dissuade him and when this didn’t work, it even used an indirect stratagem to sabotage Sharif’s New Delhi trip. Just a few days before his departure for New Delhi, terrorists unsuccessfully tried to storm the Indian Consulate in Herat, Afghanistan. After thorough investigation, both Kabul and Washington independently confirmed that the perpetuators of this attack were militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Toiba, which we all know is the Pakistan army’s pet proxy!
Many feel that Sharif made a big mistake by adopting a reconciliatory approach in order to mend fences with New Delhi, because in doing so he committed the cardinal sin of trying to tinker with Islamabad’s foreign policy towards India, which as everyone knows is the sole prerogative of the Pakistan army. But most of us don’t learn from our mistakes and Sharif is no exception. His attempts to restore token supremacy of the legislature in Pakistan made Sharif a source of great inconvenience for the military and the army chief was forced to abandon the ongoing practice of discreetly ‘managing’ the legislature from the background. In an effort to assert itself, Islamabad experienced a series of embarrassing incidents.
One such incident that occurred in June 2014 concerned the launching of ‘Operation Zarb-e-Azb’, an ‘all-out’ war against terror. In democracies, it is customary for the government to announce commencement any major military campaign, but in this case it was the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) of the army and not the country’s PM or Interior Ministry that did so.
In October last year, the situation further exacerbated when The Dawn carried a news report regarding the GoP’s clear warning to the military leadership that Islamabad faced global isolation in case the army continued to support like Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed as well as patronise groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tioba and the Haqanni network. Despite coercive measures adopted by the army, the newspaper refused to retract this damning piece, insisting that it stood by the same since its contents were obtained from sources that were actually present when these discussions took place and were therefore authentic. The army was convinced that the ‘source’ who provided explicit details contained in the news report was a government official and that this was an ‘intentional leak’ to embarrass the military establishment!
But Sharif’s brush with the army didn’t end here. In January last year, after New Delhi handed over “actionable intelligence” related to the Pathankot airbase terror attack, in what can be called an unprecedented move, Sharif called up Modi and assured him that “his government would take prompt and decisive action against the militants.” This pro-activeness displayed by Sharif didn’t go down well with the army because the Generals felt that he had unnecessarily accepted the fact that the Pathankot terror attack was the handiwork of Pakistan based militants Moreover, by promising “prompt and decisive action against the militants,” Sharif was compromising those whom the army treats as its ‘strategic assets’ and such interference in military matters even by the PM was something absolutely unacceptable to the Generals.
Four months ago, Pakistan’s new Ambassador to the US Aizaz Chaudhry told his audience in Washington, “It is unfortunate that militant groups strike every time a peace process or dialogue starts between India and Pakistan. As a result of which India withdraws from the dialogue. This is what militant wants.” Though New Delhi has been saying this all along and emphasising that violence and talks can’t go together, Chaudhry’s admission of this reality bedeviling Indo-Pak dialogue process came as a great embarrassment for Rawalpindi since the whole world knows that it is the Pakistan army that is directing and controlling all terrorist activities in Kashmir.
A month later, while addressing a full senate chamber, Nawaz Sharif’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that only “insufficient evidence” had been presented to the government and the dossier on alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav “did not have any conclusive evidence.” Aziz summed up by saying, “What the dossier (on Jadhav) contained was not enough. Now it is up to the concerned authorities (army) how long they take to give us more matter on the agent.” Since Jadhav’s case was being handled exclusively by the Pakistan army and the government was completely being kept in the dark, Sharif should have known that the Generals were upto something unusual. Yet he allowed his Advisor on Foreign Affairs to comment on this case without seeking prior approval of the army and the army hasn’t forgiven him for this!
To make matters worse, Aziz made the monumental mistake of giving out the factual position of the case and highlighting the absence of any conclusive evidence to substantiate the charges of terrorism and spying leveled against Jadhav. Though a military court thereafter awarded the death sentence to Jadhav and the army has tried to defend this judgment by releasing a purported “confessional video,” Aziz’s testimony before the full senate chamber rips apart the army’s incredulous claims. There is a strong feeling within army circles in Pakistan that Sharif was in favour of Jadhav’s death sentence being commuted to a prison term so that the diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan didn’t cross the ‘point of no return’. But this proved to be the last straw that broke the army’s back and with two of the six-member SIT investigating Sharif in the Panama papers case being from the army, getting ‘rid’ of Sharif must have been a cakewalk.
In future it would do Nawaz Sharif good to remember that Pakistan is not a country with an army but an army with a country!


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