Pakistan SC order on PM Sharif setback for opposition parties
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Pakistan SC order on PM Sharif setback for opposition parties

The Pakistan Supreme Court’s order for a fresh investigation into corruption allegations against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is a setback for the country’s opposition parties.

world Updated: Apr 21, 2017 23:46 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif,Pakistan Supreme Court,Panama Papers
FILE PHOTO: Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attens the Pakistan Day military parade in Islamabad, Pakistan March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood/File Photo

The reprieve given to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by Pakistan’s Supreme Court has not only given the ruling PML-N party a breather but also an edge for the forthcoming general election.

The PML-N now has enough time to use official machinery and set the stage ahead of the 2018 polls, which possibly it will now call for by the end of the year.

Opposition parties have seen Thursday’s Supreme Court order for a fresh investigation into corruption allegations against Sharif as a setback to their electoral plans. The court ordered the creation of a joint investigation team to probe allegations linked to the Panama Papers leaks within two months.

Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party was hoping for Sharif to step down and for some sort of interim set-up to be put in place. Historically, the chances of an electoral upset become brighter in such a situation. Sadly for Khan’s party, this is not about to happen.

But what is striking about the judgment was that the two non-Punjabi judges in the five-member bench – one being a Sindhi and the other a Seraiki – had ruled that Sharif should step down. This reflects the growing resentment in different circles with the Punjab-centric federal government.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif looks out the window of his plane after attending a ceremony to inaugurate a motorway between Karachi and Hyderabad in February 2017. (Reuters)

Analysts said that while a two-month breather has been obtained, it remains to be seen whether Sharif will actually be sent home after the joint investigation team – which will include representatives from the Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence – concludes its investigations.

The general view in Pakistan is that this will not happen and the only objective of the exercise has been to keep the Sharif government on the defensive.

“The establishment continues to challenge the democratic government so that it remains on edge,” said analyst and journalist Husain Naqi. “It is part of the power struggle that has continued throughout Sharif’s tenure.”

It is this struggle that Sharif needs to focus on, say observers. Despite nearly a decade of democratic government, the establishment, which includes the all powerful army, jockeys for positions and power.

The verdict on Thursday can be considered a small victory for not just the PML-N but for democracy in Pakistan, some quarters believe. But the bigger victory, they say, is when a mainstream party wins the elections in 2018. That will strengthen the democratic disposition in the country for the years to come.

First Published: Apr 21, 2017 15:33 IST