Nawaz Sharif’s missive and Pakistan’s game of marbles

Syed Jawaid Iqbal
Syed Jawaid Iqbal
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Na Khedaan Gey, Na Khedun Devaan Gey. (Neither will I play, nor will I let others play)

This centuries-old and popular Punjabi folk comes into picture when young boys playing marbles start fighting with each other. When the biggest cheating offender is thrown out, he disrupts the game and says if he is not allowed, he would also not let anybody else play as well.

Something similar seems to be happening on the national front in Pakistan today. One of the major players over the last four decades, namely Nawaz Sharif, has been disqualified by the Supreme Court. He has been debarred from politics for life and cannot lead his party anymore. The mantle has been shifted to his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif. Since Nawaz is now completely out of the political game at all levels, his political future is rather bleak.

Even then, in an interview to Dawn, Nawaz Sharif seems to have implied that Pakistan’s state terrorism was responsible for the killing of 150 persons in the Mumbai attacks in November, 2008. This created tremendous furor and the Indian media declared that Pakistan admitted to the country being involved in the attacks at a state level. Nawaz Sharif keeps asking though: “What is wrong about what I said?”

It is clear that Nawaz Sharif does not seem to understand the far-reaching consequences of his missive. It is somewhat like the folly he committed on October 12, 1999 when he tried to wrest the post of Chief of Army Staff from General Pervez Musharraf, in a stealthy manner. Gen. Musharraf’s subsequent action in taking over the government on that day now appears even more justified.

Politician and well-known lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan is of the view that things seem to be happening on two levels in and around Pakistan. In his opinion, at another level, a game seems to be going on aimed at changing the very face of the region of which Pakistan is a part.

Ahsan says that in this game, the relations that currently exist between the South Asian countries, including Afghanistan and the Central Asian countries, would be impacted on a long-term basis.

Many leading party leaders are of the view that by making irresponsible utterances, Nawaz Sharif has seriously damaged Pakistan’s image and compromised the party’s chances of returning to power

Sayed Jawaid Iqbal

This level comprises the US, Britain, China and Narendra Modi. It appears, Nawaz Sharif is also a part of this game. Going by the confidence that Nawaz Sharif exudes these days and the anger that he displays it is clear that he has support from outside Pakistan and is willing to go the whole hog to malign the country, whatever the cost.

Since Modi and Trump have arrived on the scene, it is obvious that both are jockeying for dominant individual roles. It is in this context that they seem to have some key decisions regarding Pakistan’s nuclear program and its future in their pockets. The US has already subjugated North Korea in many ways. It has also taken a very harsh stance against Iran. Now the focus seems to be shifting toward Pakistan.

However, before they make their real agenda known, there is an effort to create a favorable climate both in Pakistan and at the global level that Pakistan’s nuclear capability is a dangerous factor because it could go into the hands of terrorists. This is the reason, perhaps, that despite Nawaz Sharif’s obvious wrongdoings, he seems to have a free rein.

Convoluted mind

Where he is headed and where he is taking Pakistan is lost to everyone. It seems Nawaz Sharif has mapped out in his convoluted mind the impression that Pakistan does not have a future and if he is deprived of the privilege to become prime minister again, or even the right to lead his party, then there is no point for Pakistan to exist.

In his confused mind, Pakistan’s narrative ends with him. This perfectly suits the forces surrounding Pakistan because they seem to be convinced that global terrorism cannot be eliminated so long as Pakistan is on the world map and has nuclear capability. In their minds, if Pakistan stops being a nuclear power, it will be easier to subdue it.

The Sword of Damocles also hangs on Pakistan’s head in the form of the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) and the fact that the country is already on the FATF grey list. With pronouncements such as the one Nawaz Sharif made recently, the country has all the chances of being sent to the FATF black list.

If Pakistan is indeed blacklisted, the country’s economy will suffer no end. The damage will be on many fronts and even Pakistan’s citizens will face untold hardships whenever they step out of the country. It is still strange that despite the very negative fallout for the country, Nawaz Sharif is accepting state complicity in international terrorism and creating a dark future for the country.

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Nawaz Sharif’s pronouncements are all the more irresponsible since he is a leading political figure. He has served as prime minister three times and is, undoubtedly, privy to many state secrets. But if he starts threatening that he would let the secrets out if things don’t go his way, then the integrity of the country is bound to hit a wall.

It is a fact that Nawaz Sharif has indulged in corruption of the highest order and generated tons of illegal money and unlimited property for himself and his family. It seems though that he has now reached the end of the line.

Things have come to a point that he has nothing more to submit to the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He is not in a position to provide any further explanations or place before the honorable judges a trail of all the wealth that he has amassed over the years. In such circumstances, the only place left for him is the jail. He seems to be very much aware of his fate.

Contradictory messages

Nawaz insists that whatever he said in his interview to Dawn was true. When his own hand-picked Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was asked questions by the National Defense Council (NSC), he agreed that Sharif should not have made such a statement.

However, soon after Abbasi left the NSC meeting and met Nawaz Sharif, he changed his stance and began saying that Nawaz was being mis-reported by both the Indian and Pakistani media.

Unfortunately, this is a position that is creating deep fissures in the party because Shahbaz Sharif, the Chief Minister of Punjab and President of the PML (N), also says his brother could not have said what is being alluded to him.

Many other leading party leaders are of the view that by making irresponsible utterances, Nawaz Sharif has seriously damaged Pakistan’s international image and compromised the party’s chances of returning to power.

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There is a general sense of despondency in Nawaz Sharif’s political party. The Sharif family’s fate vis-à-vis. the expected Supreme Court verdict is already proving to be a spirit dampener and the party may not do so well in the forthcoming elections.

In this backdrop, Shahbaz Sharif, generally considered a “doer”, may have a chance to lead the party provided he takes a position against his elder brother. The chances of this are said to be remote because Shahbaz has never gone against Nawaz Sharif despite so many opportunities in the past.

It is obvious that the irresponsible utterances of Nawaz Sharif would create unfathomable problems for the party and cause major dilemma for the coming interim government as Pakistan is bound to face a very difficult time in the coming months.
President & CEO of perception management company, CMC, Syed Jawaid Iqbal is a well-known author and public relations guru. Karachi-based Jawaid Iqbal has represented Pakistan at several regional and international forums and has been Chairman, Pakistan Chapter of the Colombo-based South Asia Media Association. He is associated with several social welfare organizations and contributes to leading newspapers. He has also presented TV talk shows on current affairs. In 2003 he founded the Society for Global Moderation – a private-sector think tank, strengthening tolerance, inter-faith harmony and democracy. His book “On Record” was released in 2004. His twitter handle is @Jayeye49.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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