New Age Islam Edit Bureau
02 August 2017
A Blighted Pakistan
By Salman Haidar
The Empire Strikes Back
By Rakesh Sood
The Ouster of Nawaz Sharif
By Satinder K Lambah
US’ Pakistan Policy: Time For More
Sticks, Fewer Carrots
By Larry Pressler
Mehbooba’s Message Deserves
Reciprocation Not Belligerence
By Vinod Sharma
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
August 2, 2017
With the unexpected removal of Nawaz
Sharif, Pakistan has maintained its unenviable record of not permitting any
Prime Minister to complete his or her term of office.
Sharif himself had been earlier removed
from the PM’s position on more than one occasion, only to regroup, return to
the political arena, and reclaim the job. This time, however, nobody
anticipates yet another turn of fate that would bring him back. He himself
seems to have acknowledged that the curtain has fallen definitively on his
And yet, in a twist that his opponents may
not have anticipated, he has been able to pass the baton to his brother Shahbaz
~ he has to go through the process of being elected to the National Assembly,
being at present member of the Punjab State Assembly, whereafter he can be
expected to assume leadership of the PML (N), the ruling party in Islamabad,
and take over as Prime Minister.
The judicial verdict that precipitated this
series of events has not impressed some observers. They have said that the
investigation of the wrongdoing attributed to the deposed Prime Minister had
been less than thorough, and the judges had been unduly influenced by the media
clamour. But despite the shortcomings there can be no disputing the outcome,
for Sharif has been toppled and has had to yield the power that until just a
few days ago was his to dispense.
With that have followed a number of
consequences that may be relevant now and in the future, and although Sharif
was a popular politician who enjoyed a strong position in his country’s
Parliament, there is little sign of public dismay or agitation at the turn of
Within Parliament, there is no evidence of
cracks in the ruling party that would encourage ambitions among aspiring successors;
on the contrary, the PML (N) would appear to have retained its coherence so as
to permit the former leader to nominate his successor. To that extent,
notwithstanding the circumstances in which it was enforced, the transition has
been a relatively smooth affair.
Yet questions at this way of proceeding are
inevitable and will no doubt continue to trouble Pakistan. The role of the
Supreme Court is very much in focus at the present.
On earlier occasions too it has been ready
to intervene in the political domain, and its activism can create unanticipated
situations with long-term consequences. Pakistan has from the start suffered
from the stunted development of its instruments of democratic governance ~
starting from the same point at the same time as India, with a common heritage
of institutions and practices, it has failed to keep pace with its neighbour,
and on the contrary has suffered a series of setbacks that have blighted its
How far an activist Supreme Court can
permit the other major instruments of state to function within their respective
spheres remains to be seen, especially after the ousting of Sharif by legal
The part played by the army in this crisis
cannot but be a matter of compelling interest. Its repeated interventions over
the years and its historical success in carving out a position for itself above
and beyond the rest of the official apparatus are overshadowing developments in
Pakistan’s political sphere.
During these recent events the army has
held its peace, deeming perhaps that there was nothing to be gained through
intervention and it was wiser to let events take their course without drawing
in the armed services. Even so, there is no shortage of conviction that such a
decisive event could not have been possible without the sanction, or at least
the acquiescence, of the army.
The role of the army has, inevitably, come
under scrutiny, and even though direct evidence may be scanty, some
commentators have expressed the view that the army has not been far removed
from the recent events. During his time, Sharif had on occasion crossed swords
with the army and had not been able to prevail in matters where his choice went
against the wishes of the military establishment. Such episodes, it is
believed, left a residue of doubt and ensured that Mr Sharif never became the
favourite of the army.
By contrast, the new Pak PM-designate
Shahbaz Sharif, is described as being closer to the army and to have developed
better ties with them ~ having been Chief Minister of Punjab for so long, the
main centre of military recruitment, he can be expected to have developed
better links with the military brass.
This can only be a matter of speculation at
this stage but such thoughts from some observers indicate that the new incumbent
may come in with a favourable initial wind behind him. Nor is there any
important opposition from major civilian leaders. Not so long ago, Imran Khan
and his supporters, apparently with army backing, virtually shut down life in
Islamabad to promote their political cause. But Khan has not been much in the
picture at this present time of decision and change.
The insistent call for an end to corruption
that brought him much public support and spread to the streets is not voiced in
similar fashion now. Nor has the Supreme Court’s decision sparked the public
manifestations and demands for clean public life as were seen earlier. Seen
from afar, the developments in Pakistan have been received more with
resignation than anything else.
There have been many uncertainties in its
domestic affairs even before the Supreme Court gave its judgment, and there can
be little expectation that what has now happened can bring a halt to the many
damaging issues of internal management that have taken such a toll in that
country. Change of leadership by itself will not solve problems, and Mr Nawaz
Sharif had been on the scene for so long that other leaders elsewhere may take
a little time to adjust to his successor.
This is especially the case so far as India
is concerned. Though relations between the two countries are greatly disturbed
on account of Pakistani support for terrorism, a tenuous stability in the
relationship has been maintained. At a minimum, India can hope for maintenance
of this status quo, without having to deal with adventurous policies by new
leaders in Islamabad. India has always considered that a democratic neighbour
is better than a military-led one.
It is thus to be hoped that the new
incumbent will quickly settle into his new responsibilities.
Though no significant change in relations
can be anticipated, continued civilian rule may offer a better prospect for the
improved ties that India has been seeking.
By Rakesh Sood
August 02, 2017
Pakistan’s deep state always works with a
king’s party — as it did for the judicial coup against Nawaz Sharif
Had Nawaz Sharif continued as Prime
Minister till 2018, he would have created history by becoming the first Prime
Minister to have completed a full five-year term in Pakistan’s 70-year history.
As it happens, he still created history, though of a different sort. When he
resigned on July 28, he became the only thrice elected Prime Minister who had
his tenure cut short each time by ‘the empire’, or the deep state in Pakistan.
The Panama Papers leaks in April last year
consisted of more than 11 million documents, from the law firm Mossack Fonseca,
containing confidential attorney-client information dealing mostly with
off-shore entities and bank accounts. Of these, eight pertained to Mr. Sharif,
his sons Hassan and Hussain and his daughter and political heir Maryam.
These revealed four property purchases by
the family in London in the 1990s, hardly a secret in Pakistan. Opposition
leader, the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, immediately dubbed it
‘Panamagate’ and demanded Mr. Sharif’s resignation.
As protests mounted, Mr. Khan threatened a
‘lockdown’ in Islamabad. The government imposed Section 144, setting the stage
for a confrontation. The situation was similar to the 2014 protests, also led
by Mr. Khan together with the cleric-turned-politician Tahir-ul-Qadri, alleging
rigging in the 2013 elections that had brought Mr. Sharif to power for the
third time. At that time, the army played a role in diffusing the situation.
This time, the Supreme Court stepped in to announce the setting up of a
five-member bench to hear a bunch of petitions filed by opposition politicians
seeking Mr. Sharif’s disqualification on grounds of corruption.
On April 20 this year, the Supreme Court
came out with a split verdict. Two of the judges felt that Mr. Sharif should be
disqualified, but the majority view found the evidence insufficient and
recommended setting up a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to examine the issue
and submit a report within sixty days.
Establishment of the JIT was unprecedented
in Pakistan’s judicial history. The team included officials from the Federal
Investigation Agency, the National Accountability Bureau, State Bank of
Pakistan, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, and
interestingly, an officer each from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and
the Military Intelligence. The 10-volume report, submitted to the Supreme Court
on July 10 highlighted irregular movements of large sums of money in the form
of loans and gifts between offshore entities in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab
Emirates (UAE) and the United Kingdom and recommended re-opening of a number of
earlier cases while initiating a clutch of new inquiries.
The Supreme Court bench reconvened and this
time, reached a unanimous verdict, disqualifying Mr. Sharif and Finance
Minister Ishaq Dar (his son is married to Mr. Sharif’s daughter) and directing
the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to initiate cases against them,
together with Hassan, Hussain, Maryam and her husband Capt. Safdar. Further,
NAB is to complete its task within six months, before the elections next year.
A Judicial Coup
Ironically, after all the investigations,
the disqualification verdict is based on a technicality. Mr. Sharif stood
disqualified for having violated Article 62 of the Constitution which specifies
that any member of Pakistan’s National Assembly must be ‘sagacious, righteous
and non-profligate, honest and upright’, a provision that had been introduced
by General Zia-ul-Haq. The verdict was based on the JIT discovery that Mr.
Sharif had been Chairman of Capital FZE, a Dubai-based entity, from August 2006
to April 2014, at a monthly remuneration of 10,000 Dirhams, and this disclosure
was missing in the asset declaration filed for the 2013 elections. The Supreme
Court had therefore judged Mr. Sharif not to be ‘honest and upright’ and therefore
‘disqualified’ to be a member of the National Assembly. The defence lawyers had
pointed out that the company belonged to his son Hassan, that Mr. Sharif had
never drawn any remuneration, and the remuneration was notional, needed for the
visa when Mr. Sharif was in political exile in the UAE. The Supreme Court
interpreted differently; the amount was a ‘receivable’ and therefore ‘an asset’
that should have been declared!
The NAB will uncover many more skeletons,
pertaining to money laundering and corruption, which could lead to imprisonment
and fines unless Mr. Sharif is able to go into exile or do a deal. This is why
he needs to keep control within the family. Former Petroleum Minister Shahid
Khaqan Abbasi has been appointed interim Prime Minister for 45 days while Mr.
Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz resigns from his position as Chief Minister of
Punjab, enters the National Assembly and takes over as Prime Minister. In
Punjab, there is talk that Shahbaz Sharif’s son Hamza, who is a member of the
provincial assembly, will take over as Chief Minister. With 209 seats in the
342-member National Assembly, Mr. Sharif can call the shots as long as the
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz or PML(N) rallies behind the family. At stake is
the Sharif legacy compounded because of lack of clarity about whether the
disqualification is permanent or for a finite period. Article 63, also
introduced by Gen. Zia, provides for disqualification of an elected member for
five years on grounds of ‘contempt of court’ (this was used to dismiss Yousaf
Raza Gillani in 2012) but Article 62 does not specify any time frame.
The irony is that Nawaz Sharif had started
his political career with the blessings of the army in the Zia days. He became
the Chief Minister of Punjab in 1985 and the ISI helped him cobble together the
Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) coalition which won him his first term as Prime
Minister in 1990. Since then, his differences with the Army and the ‘deep
state’ have only grown. In 1993, amid increasing differences with Gen. Abdul Waheed
Kakar, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed his government, but Mr. Sharif
fought back, and the Supreme Court restored his position. The army then
brokered a deal under which both he and the President resigned, ending his
first stint. His second stint in 1997-1999 was more turbulent. The nuclear
tests of 1998 encouraged him to respond favourably to Prime Minister Atal
Bihari Vajpayee’s peace overtures which were derailed by the Kargil conflict.
His botched-up attempt to replace Gen. Pervez Musharraf led to the coup in 1999
and the exile for eight years.
Like Generals Kakar and Musharraf earlier,
Gen. Raheel Sharif too was his choice but differences emerged. The army had to
dissuade him from going after Gen. Musharraf and he later blamed the army for
encouraging Imran Khan’s agitational politics, aimed at weakening the PML(N)
hold in Punjab, the largest province which accounts for 183 seats in the
342-member National Assembly. Panamagate was already unfolding when relations
with the army worsened with the Dawnleaks incident last October for which the
army held his office responsible. His Information Minister resigned and after a
prolonged inquiry, his Adviser, Tariq Fatemi, too had to go. Differences on
policy approaches with India and Afghanistan had become more pronounced. He
wanted to claim credit for the projects under the China-Pakistan Economic
Corridor to ensure his re-election in 2018. He had to go.
The ‘deep state’ has always worked with a
king’s party, and there have always been politicians willing to oblige. Gen.
Musharraf had encouraged Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain to set up PML (Q) to wean
away Punjab during Mr. Sharif’s exile; Gen. Zia had helped form the PML(F)
under Pir Pagara and later Mr. Sharif himself had been a beneficiary. This
time, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf played the role of the king’s party
and the Supreme Court legitimised the ouster. But he too is under
investigation. Coups in Pakistan come in different forms and this was a
judicial coup, of a judgment reached before the trial was done. But behind it
is the ‘deep state’ which exposes the fundamental fault line in Pakistan, of
building a state based on faith while denying its civilisational roots.
The Ouster Of Nawaz Sharif
Major judicial verdicts in Pakistan have
not upheld democratic values. Ayub Khan’s coup, which was the first military
takeover, had been described as a “revolution” by the judiciary. General
Zia-ul-Haq’s takeover was legitimised through the “doctrine of necessity”.
Bhutto’s death sentence by the Pakistan Supreme Court, through a 4-3 verdict
after two judges had been removed from the original nine-member bench, was
considered by many as a judicial murder. When Zia dismissed his protégé
Muhammad Khan Junejo, whom he had appointed as prime minister, the Supreme
Court upheld the dismissal as unconstitutional only after Zia’s death. But even
then it chose not to restore the Junejo government on the intervention of the
army chief, as later became apparent through the revelation by General Aslam
Beg himself in 1993.
General Musharraf’s takeover was justified
once again in terms of the doctrine of state necessity. The court decided to
ignore the core issue of Article 6 which prohibited coups. In 2012, Yousuf Raza
Gillani was dismissed as prime minister on account of a Supreme Court order
before he could complete his five-year tenure. In the last seven decades, the
office of the prime minister of Pakistan remained abolished for over 30 years
during military rule. The general stance of the Pakistan judiciary throughout
has been lenient towards the army and tough against civilian governments.
There have also been occasions when the
judiciary supported democratic measures. Justice Nasim Hasan Shah restored
Nawaz Sharif to office in May1993 after the latter had been dismissed a month
earlier. It may be mentioned that the judge in this case had been a member of
the bench which delivered the majority judgement in the Bhutto case. Through
this act the judge tried to redeem his image. The judgment of the Pakistan
Supreme Court on July 28 in Nawaz Sharif’s case is history repeating itself.
It, however, leaves some questions unanswered.
The court has referred the main charge of
corruption against Nawaz Sharif to the National Accountability Bureau. Thus, a
sitting prime minister has been disqualified even before the charges could be
proved. Further, the judgement is not specific about the period of disqualification.
Nawaz Sharif has been found guilty of violating Article 62 of Pakistan’s
Constitution that requires him to be truthful (Sadiq) and Article 63 which
expects him to be righteous (Ameen). It is easy to apply these principles
against anyone without being specific.
A charge against Nawaz Sharif is that he
did not declare to the Election Commission his salary as chairman of a
Dubai-based company which in actuality he did not either accept or receive.
Perhaps the court is right in declaring that unreceived salary is an asset,
albeit a notional one, but it is difficult to accept that this is a crime for
which an elected prime minister should face disqualification. The supreme court
bench does not also appear to have been composed in a righteous (ameen) manner.
The two judges who had previously opined against Nawaz Sharif were included in
the bench. The inclusion of the representative of military intelligence in the
JIT, appointed by the court, had also raised some questions. Nawaz Sharif may
be guilty but the manner in which he has been disqualified could make him look
like a martyr.
Nawaz Sharif has been prime minister of
Pakistan on three occasions. He was unable to complete his term in any of them.
Taking his tenures collectively, he has been the longest serving prime minister
of Pakistan. As PM he visited India twice — to attend Rajiv Gandhi’s funeral
and Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony. In the past, he has made private
visits as well. Altogether, he has had nearly 20 meetings with six prime ministers
of India in Delhi, Lahore and other world capitals. He met Chandra Shekhar in
Male 19 days after taking over for the first time as prime minister and later
in New Delhi when he came to attend Rajiv Gandhi’s funeral. He met Narasimha
Rao on six occasions — Harare (October 1991), Colombo (SAARC Meeting December
1991), Davos (February 1992), Rio (Earth Summit, June 1992), Jakarta (10th NAM
Meeting, September 1992), Dhaka (November 1993, SAARC Summit). He met I.K.
Gujral thrice — in New York, Dhaka and Male.
They were also in touch on the telephone.
The composite dialogue started at that time. Sharif hosted Vajpayee when he
went by bus to Lahore. During his third tenure he met Manmohan Singh in New
York and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi, Lahore, Ufa, Asthana and Paris.
This enviable record sets him apart from other prime ministers of India and
Pakistan as none have had as many meetings with their counterparts. He could
not achieve much success. For instance, both the Lahore meetings did not produce
the desired result. Lahore was followed by Kargil and Lahore II by the attack
There has been no forward movement in
India-Pakistan relations in the recent past. Hence, Nawaz Sharif’s removal is
not likely to affect the bilateral relationship. The control of the Pakistan
army on its country’s relations with India and Afghanistan can be expected to
From my perch a few blocks from the State
Department and the White House, and just across the river from the Pentagon, I
am starting to see the signs that a policy shift is afoot in the U.S. position
vis-à-vis its unreliable ally, Pakistan. The Trump Administration appears to be
ready to take a much harder line against this rogue nation. The appointment of
Lisa Curtis as the senior director for South and Central Asia at the National
Security Council augurs a more punitive approach to Pakistan than the Obama
Administration, which gave more military and economic aid to Pakistan than any
previous administration in an effort to bribe the country into action against
the terrorists hiding out in plain sight within its borders. On the contrary,
Curtis has recommended that any future aid to Pakistan be calibrated against
Pakistan’s ending its support to the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network.
In a Hudson Institute report that she
co-authored earlier this year with Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistan ambassador
to the United States, the two policy experts recommended that Pakistan be
punished swiftly if these milestones are not met: stripping Pakistan of its
major non-NATO ally (MNNA) status and designating it a state sponsor of
terrorism. Ambassador Haqqani reiterated these recommendations in a July 6 New
York Times editorial. In other words, more sticks and fewer carrots. Now that
Curtis is in charge of the US’ policy towards South Asia and ostensibly has the
ear of the nation’s National Security Advisor and President Trump, she is in a
position to initiate and implement these recommendations.
These policy changes are long overdue. As I
state emphatically in my newly released book, Neighbours in Arms: An American
Senator’s Quest for Disarmament in a Nuclear Subcontinent, Pakistan should be
treated like North Korea — like a rogue state. The only reason Pakistan is not
a totally failed state is that countries like China and the United States
continue to prop it up with massive amounts of foreign aid. Unless Pakistan changes
its ways with respect to terrorism, it should be declared a terrorist state.
Indeed, the first Bush administration seriously considered doing so in 1992.
Pakistan’s leaders have essentially blackmailed us into providing aid for the
war on terror with threats to cease assistance in rooting out terrorists in
Afghanistan. Meanwhile, we know fully well that Pakistan harbours terrorists,
and many military leaders believe terrorists have infiltrated Pakistan’s ranks.
We let Pakistan use US taxpayer money to build their nuclear weapons programme.
Why do we now let them use US taxpayer money to harbour terrorists? Without our
money and military supplies, Pakistan would be powerless. Why do we continue to
call Pakistan an ally? Why do we continue to be blackmailed?
The Pressler Amendment is also wrongly
blamed for political instability in Pakistan during its enforcement period.
That is just nonsense — there was just as much instability in Pakistan before
the Pressler Amendment. Critics will say that, during that time, Iran and Saudi
Arabia started fuelling sectarianism in Pakistan. The truth of the matter is
that the Pressler amendment did slow down Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions, and I
think the public attention forced Pakistan to be much more careful and transparent.
The underlying policy objectives at the heart of the Pressler Amendment clearly
have had a long-lasting impact, even if inconsistently enforced.
The US Congress is tired of Pakistan’s lies
and games. It cut off $300 million in aid and blocked government funding for
the transfer of F-16 aircraft last year. Congress knows squeezing them
financially is the only leverage that really works. Curtis and Ambassador
Haqqani understand this as well. They are old enough to remember the Pressler
Amendment and its impact on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme. Named after
me, it was enforced under President George H.W. Bush in 1990 when he could not
certify that Pakistan did not have a nuclear weapon. As a result, all aid to
Pakistan was immediately cut off. It was the ultimate diplomatic “stick.”
Unfortunately, the generals in the Pentagon continued to find ways to fund the
generals in Islamabad and the Pressler Amendment’s effectiveness and
enforcement withered. Today, another type of Pressler Amendment is needed to
force Pakistan to reject the terrorists in its midst. Hopefully, the new regime
at the White House and in Congress will make it happen. Oddly enough, the
election of Donald Trump as president might be the best thing for the
relationship between the world’s two largest democracies.
The divisive issue of Kashmir is cannon
fodder for a section of the electronic media thriving on uber-nationalism.
Forever on the lookout for sensation, they either miss the wood for the trees
or consciously conjure up smoke suggesting a forest fire where none exists.
A case in point is Mehbooba Mufti’s July 28
speech at a seminar in Delhi where she spoke after I introduced the subject —
Understanding Kashmir: a composite dialogue on peace, stability and the way
forward. Organised by the Bureau of Research on Industry and Economic
Fundamentals (BRIEF), the event had in attendance experts and scholars from
think tanks such as the Vivekananda Foundation, India Foundation and the
Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses.
The ensuing electronic media debates based
on a selective reading of the PDP leader’s speech were a study in illiteracy.
The big message she sought to convey was lost in the cacophony over her comment
on the political consequences in Kashmir of any tinkering with Article 35A of
The Article defines Kashmir’s ‘permanent
residents’ besides detailing their special rights and privileges. It is
currently under the Supreme Court’s scrutiny on a petition that challenges as
violative of fundamental rights a state subject’s loss of privileges if she
married a non-state subject.
Mehbooba did not comment on the
constitutionality or otherwise of the said Article vis-à-vis fundamental
rights. Her focus was on the political fallout from any dilution or change in
the provision aimed at securing the State’s demographic composition. Pointing
to PDP, Congress and National Conference (NC) leaders in the audience, she
said: “Supreme Court mein 35A abhi bhi chal raha hai. In the event of it being
tinkered with, there’ll be nobody left to lend shoulder to the national flag we
carry (in Kashmir).”
The PDP leader’s message rang loud and
genuine: there’d be no political space left in Kashmir for those who swore by
the Indian Constitution if the State’s special status was mutated in any which
way. She rounded it off, in fact, on an emotional note, insisting she wanted to
see an India that felt Kashmir’s angst; the India that accepted “us on our
terms (humey hamari sharton par kubul kia).”
The state subject provision has its genesis
in Article 370 that accords a special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Votaries of
its abrogation question its sanctity (in constitutional terms). They consider
it a hindrance in Kashmir’s economic development and integration with the rest
of India. Mehbooba flagged the ‘incongruity’ of such demands in the context of
the Centre’s insistence that talks on Kashmir be held within the four walls of
the Constitution. “How can we talk in the same breath about scrapping the
state’s special status under the Constitution while insisting that talks with stakeholders
in Kashmir have to be within the constitutional framework.”
The speech she made as chief minister of
the PDP-BJP coalition was part of her efforts to reach Kashmir’s voice to
mainland India. Her posers highlighting the flip side to the largely mono-dimensional
media discourse were valid and needed more popular attention.
In fact, the question to be addressed in
any earnest discourse on the issue is the one she raised at the very outset:
How much can the idea of Kashmir be accommodated by the idea of India? On that
premise she wondered whether weapons and laws (read: pellet guns and AFSPA)
that are exclusive to the State have “helped offer Kashmiris a better choice
than what they’re asking.”
Pakistan blamed, but is not creator of
unrest in Kashmir, says Omar Abdullah
Mehbooba made no reference to the NC’s
autonomy or the PDP’s self-rule formulation. She was certain nevertheless that
the way forward for the Centre was to present the people an option better than
aazadi: “We have to keep the diversity…The idea of India isn’t complete without
the idea of Kashmir.”
The chief minister’s was a persuasive case
for a political initiative in Kashmir without disturbing the constitutionally
mandated rules of engagement. It deserved reciprocation, not the kind of
belligerent media response or partisan political reaction it got. It is about
time India lent an attentive ear to its integral part.