Nawaz Sharif’s judicial ouster could bring back era of minority regimes in Pakistan | opinion | Hindustan Times
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Nawaz Sharif’s judicial ouster could bring back era of minority regimes in Pakistan

opinion Updated: Jul 29, 2017 07:35 IST
Vinod Sharma
Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addresses his supporters during a rally in Gujranwala, near Lahore.

Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addresses his supporters during a rally in Gujranwala, near Lahore.(Reuters File)

Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification on corruption charges might weaken his ruling Pakistan Muslim League at a time when no other party seems strong enough to win a majority on its own.

The scenario has many Indian parallels: Bilawal Bhutto’s PPP that’s the principal Opposition in shambles like the Congress; Imran Khan’s clean-polity, anti-graft Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf robbed of moral sheen, a la the Aam Aadmi Party.

A closer look at the popular-but-tainted Sharif family could also make it resemble the Lalu Yadav clan: patriarch benched out of electoral politics, corruption charges against heirs. In Nawaz’s case: daughter Maryam. In Lalu’s: son Tejasvi.

Political stability currently not an issue in India, the comparison ends here. There’s broad consensus on Project Democracy in Pakistan. But if history’s allowed to repeat, the PML–N could split or one of its rivals cosmetically hyped to manipulate the country’s return to minority regimes more subservient to Rawalpindi.

The Benazir Bhutto phase witnessed it all. Nawaz too had a taste of it in 1992. Ousted by then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, he was reinstalled by the Court in a verdict that made history.

The period marked his transformation to a ‘rebel’ from being a child of the civil military establishment of the Zia-ul-Haq vintage. The wheel obviously has moved a full circle. The judiciary that reinstalled him as Premier a quarter century ago has cut short his political career.

The post-Nawaz political landscape will emerge closer to polls due in the first half of next year. But if elections are fair, the PPP and PTI will fight for a distant second slot – not for replacing the PML.

Why? Like our Uttar Pradesh, the Punjab province has the lion’s share in the National Assembly. The Sharif family’s clout there makes them tower over their rivals.

But that was also a liability in Nawaz’s dealings with the Army. He became PM thrice but could never complete his tenure. His judicial ouster might encourage extra-political forces that detest strong leaders, to fish again in troubled waters.

In the face of such eventualities, he’d have to think twice before shifting to Islamabad his younger brother and Punjab CM, Shahbaaz Sharif.

A Lahore-based analyst said the Sharif family has to guard both ends, more importantly Lahore. “They cannot trust an outsider in power in Punjab.”

If the choice is from within the family, Shahbaaz is best suited for the Premier’s job. Though not as popular as his elder brother, he’s a doer and, more importantly, viewed benignly by the Army brass.

The elder Sharif for his part has had run-ins with all army chiefs starting from Asif Nawaz Janjua in the early 1990s. While Janjua and Jahangir Karamat didn’t force any crisis, Abdul Waheed Kakar made him go for early polls after the Court restored him as PM.

Nawaz’s second tenure was curtailed by a showdown leading to a coup by Pervez Mushrraf – who later sent him on exile as part of a deal brokered by Saudi Arabia. It was his popularity with mid-rung officers that unsettled the army brass known to patronize conformists among civilians.