Nawaz Sharif Becomes Prime Minister for Third Time: A Testing Period for Him
Who is Nawaz Sharif ?
Nawaz Sharif is a Punjabi politician from Punjab. He is the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League –Nawaz party (PML-N). Nawaz Sharif has been Prime Minister on two occasions earlier in 1993 and 1999. On both these occasions he crossed swords with the Army and had to leave office. In his first stint as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not find favor with the then Army Chief and he had to resign.
Nawaz’s Jousts with the Pakistan Army
On the second occasion he was toppled by a military coup led by his protégé general Parvez Mushrraf. Nawaz Sharif was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment and an additional 14 years in jail. During this phase of his prime minister ship he invited the Indian Prime Minister AB Vajpayee to Pakistan. But unknown to him his protégé general Mushrraf launched an invasion against India in Kargil. He also overthrew Nawaz and tried him for treason. But friendly governments notably Saudi Arabia interceded on his behalf and Nawaz Sharif had to leave Pakistan for exile in Saudi Arabia. He returned in 2007 and contested the general elections.
The Return of Nawaz Sharif
In this election the People s party was the winner, but Nawaz Sharif played the part of a responsible opposition. The previous two stints of Nawaz Sharif were marred by a deep distrust between him and the army. This is so because Pakistan during the 66 years of its existence has been governed by the military for half that period. Right from the time when General Ayub Khan in a military coup seized power in 1958, the army has become a permanent factor in Pakistan politics. A string of generals followed Ayub Khan. In between there were sporadic attempts at civilian rule notably after the defeat in Bangladesh which discredited the army.
The Era of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his Peoples Party came to power after the loss of East Pakistan. The army at that time was discredited as nearly 100,000 POWs surrendered to India. Worse the country broke up into 2 states, with the creation of Bangladesh. The pictures of general AK Niazi surrendering his entre army to the Indian general JS Aurora at the Dacca stadium, discredited the army further.
Unfortunately he was overthrown and executed in a judicial hanging under the aegis of General Zia –Ul Haq. General Zia ruled for 10 years and his death in an air accident opened the gates again to civilian rule. Later evidence pointed to a successful assassination, which paralysed the crew in the cockpit. General Zia died along with the US Ambassador who was also onboard.
Nawaz Sharif, First and Second Stint as Prime Minister
Nawaz Sharif became prime minister in 1993. But he was dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Nawaz was reinstated by the Supreme Court, but opposition from the army forced him to tender his resignation. His second stint was equally disastrous. He had difficulties with General Jahangir Karamat. In a bid to upstage General Karamat he promoted a relatively junior officer General Pervez Mushrraf as the army chief. This was an extremely short sighted step and showed that Sharif was a poor judge of men.
His second stint was marred by indecision, though he had a majority. He had a head on clash with his own protégé and was overthrown and imprisoned.
Nawaz Sharif and the Army :his Third stint as PM
The situation now is a little different, but the army remains omnipotent. The army chief General Kayani still calls the shots. Nawaz has won a working majority this time, but the army is still breathing down his neck. He has however established a record by becoming the first prime minister in Pakistan to hold this chair for the third time. Nawaz will however be wary as his first 2 tenures as Prime Minister were disastrous.
Challenges before Sharif
The situation as far as the economy is concerned is worse than in 1999. There is runaway inflation and the balance of payments dangerously low. A point that needs to be emphasised is that Nawaz Sharif’s party has a significant presence only in the Punjab province and its presence in other states is minimal. This is a significant drawback as far as Sharif is concerned. In addition he will have to be wary of the army, which has never liked him. Thus Nawaz Sharif is going to commence his third innings under trying circumstances. He will have to do a tight rope walk. But till the army is reigned in the chance that Sharif can have full sway over Pakistan appears doubtful.
Nawaz Sharif was sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan by President Asif Zaradari at an impressive ceremony on 5 June 2103. From the word ‘go’ he seems again a prisoner of the army as despite his friendly noises and overtures to India the Pakistan army has begun a series of violations of the ceasefire. The line of control in Kashmir is again made alive and Sharif perforce has to toe the line. The future however is thorny and it will require all the acumen and skill of Sharif to tide over the twin crisis of the economy and the army.