Nawaz Sharif on trial

Nawaz Sharif on trial

democratic forces have won again

It was an emotional expression of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after winning the polls in Pakistan. By inviting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to his oath-taking ceremony, he fulfilled the desire to strike real friendship with India. But it should not come as a surprise. Nawaz Sharif won the election against Benazir Bhutto’s party on the plank of friendship with India.

Unfortunately, New Delhi’s response was tepid. I wish Atal Behari Vajpayee was there to travel by bus from Amritsar to Lahore. Then the two prime ministers advocated a new path of normalcy. Alas, the amity did not last long. Nawaz Sharif is not to blame for the Kargil misadventure. It was General Parvez Musharraf, chief of the army staff and later military dictator, who thought that he could occupy the strategic heights to harass India. Nawaz Sharif did not know about the infiltrators. Musharraf even today claims that “all were on board.” But this is not true.

Now that Nawaz Sharif is the prime minister, he has done well to order an inquiry to find out what happened during Kargil crisis. An inquiry will put an official seal on the mistakes committed and fix the responsibility. A similar kind of probe into the militants’ attack on Mumbai (26/11) will be in order. Nawaz Sharif has assured India that such attacks from across the border will never happen.

Elections in Pakistan are noisy, somewhat disorderly. Even the kidnap of former prime minister Yusuf Reza Gillani’s son did not come as a surprise. Even before the polling, it was known that Nawaz Sharif, representing his Muslim League, was strong in Punjab, Pakistan People’s Party under Asif Ali Zardari in Sindh and Imran Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaaf in Khyber Pakhtankhwa in the north-west. The results are more or less on the same lines, although Nawaz Sharif’s victory is convincing, wining both urban and rural seats in Punjab.

One motto was there. That was Pakistan’s friendship with India. But it was never recognised. I am not surprised because I have always found the common man on both sides wanting good relations. Governments play politics. They realise that hostility does not sell. It is no more a winning electoral slogan. 

I recall the sweep of Nawaz Sharif on his stand of friendship with India. Why political parties have woken up so late is something to introspect. Nawaz Sharif has said that he would pick up the thread from where he had left with Atal Behari Vajpayee. This is a positive development because it means the supremacy of liberalism over parochialism.Massive turnout

Despite Taliban threat, voters get credit for a massive turnout. Blasts all over Pakistan were another impediment. Yet the people were determined to sustain the democratic process. Nawaz Sharif occupies the position of prime ministership for the third time. This speaks volumes for him because they have elected a person who said that the prime minister is the boss of the army. Nawaz Sharif has his task cut out. The first and foremost would be to meet the poll promises, including providing uninterrupted power. Unemployment problem in Pakistan has made misguided youth an easy target for religious and radical outfits. Sharif’s government will have to address them to the satisfaction of the people who voted his party to power. He will have to attend to the problem of rampant corruption. Another onerous job at hand for him is to strike a balance between his civil administration and the military against which he has nursed a long grievance.

Sharif will be well advised to strengthen the institutions and build up people’s faith in them. That is the only way to keep the military out. It has extended its stronghold even on trade and commerce. Corporations by ex-military hands dominate 70 per cent of Pakistan’s business and the real estate. Government contracts first go to them. No democratic government can tolerate this kind of affairs. The military rule is to defend the country, not to administer it. The polls have shown the sign of maturity in Pakistan. This is the first election held by an elected political party since the country’s independence. The army has had an upper hand so far. Probably, it still has. Fragmented political scene suits the army which still gives a message of normalcy in an otherwise unstable country.
 Zardari will remain the president until September. Soon the PML (N) leader will have to look for an acceptable president who will not meddle in the affairs of Sharif’s functioning. Similarly, Sharif will have to keep his eyes open on the judiciary which has, of late, been over reactive. Pakistan’s chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhary is due to retire in December and Sharif will have an interest in who comes in his place. 

Institutions are important for a democracy. Musharraf demolished them to establish his personal rule. No doubt, this election proved that democratic forces have won again. People have made sure that democracy which had begun to take roots some years ago in Pakistan was not uprooted again. One only hopes this does not turn out to be a pyrrhic victory. It is up to Nawaz Shariff to live up to the people's expectations and keep their faith intact.

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