The year 2018 has brought many gigantic challenges, internal and external, for Pakistan. On the one hand, the PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif is trying his level best to destabilise the country just to protect his corruption and the Sharif family’s political dynasty. While, on the other hand, US President Donald Trump has threatened Pakistan with dire consequences for its alleged support to the militants, especially the Haqqani Network. He said “Pakistan had given the US nothing but lies and deceit, despite Washington giving it more than $33 billion in aid”. After that statement, the United States has also placed Pakistan on a special watch list “for severe violations of religious freedom” on 4 January. The White House has also warned that “President Donald Trump can follow through his pledge to stop US assistance to Pakistan if it does not change its Afghan policy”.
Nawaz Sharif is using every immoral, anti-religious, anti-nationalist and undemocratic tactic to force the judiciary to reverse its Panama case verdict, in which the supreme court has ousted him from the office of prime minister. To achieve his target, Nawaz Sharif is not only criticising the apex court and the army but also threatening that he will “spill the beans” of what took place in Islamabad for the last four years.
Addressing a press conference at the Punjab House on 3 January, 2018, ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said: “behind the scene” activities should stop and old political traditions should not be practiced anymore. “If these activities will not stop, I will tell the story of last four years to the whole nation. Today a new deal is being made for a ‘Ladla’ every day”, Nawaz Sharif mentioned. He claimed that despite all conspiracies against it, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is the most popular political party of Pakistan. “No one should be stopped through secret calls, disqualification and illegal verdicts,” he asserted.
Everybody knows that the country’s powerful establishment had turned Nawaz Sharif into a national political leader and also made him prime minister three times in the last three decades. But, this time, Nawaz Sharif could not manage the judiciary. So, now, he is speaking against the establishment just to create confusion and disorder in the country.
Former President Asif Ali Zardari said that if Nawaz Sharif had some “secret” he must share it with others. “He should share the secret with us. His party is in the government and if he knows who is conspiring against him, he should get the elements sacked,” the PPP Co-chairman said. “He (Nawaz Sharif) kept secrets with himself for four years and is now threatening to make them public. This is strange,” he remarked.
Separately, PPP leader Senator Aitzaz Ahsan said Sharif was competing with his own brother – Shahbaz Sharif. “He is illogically complaining of conspiracies. He has governments in the centre and two provinces. All governors are from his party. The top ministers belong to the PML-N. One can’t understand who is conspiring,” he said. Ahsan said Sharif was trying to blackmail the institutions, which was a damaging attitude. “He should tell us who is conspiring against him. He is not ready to share the secret,” the PPP leader maintained.
It is also a fact that Nawaz Sharif has always used backchannel diplomacy and behind-the-scenes manoeuvring to acquire and sustain his political power in Pakistan. He got his political education and power under military dictator Zia Ul Haq. He introduced corruption and Changha Mangha culture in Pakistan’s politics. He conspired against the PPP governments in 1990 and 1996. Even, the Supreme Court building was attacked in his tenure. With the help of Saudi Arabia, he saved his life in the Musharraf government and left the country for ten years. Then, he came back in Pakistan after getting an NRO with the help of Saudi Arabia and America. The PML-N Punjab government was also involved in the Model Town carnage. Then, to please and get support from Western countries, especially America, Nawaz Sharif has tried to change the Khatme Naboowat article in the constitution. Now, he is again using backchannel diplomacy for saving his corruption and political power. Many political pundits are seeing Nawaz Shaif and his brother CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif’s latest trip to Saudia Arabia as an effort to broker a deal between the family and the security establishment. But Nawaz Sharif’s latest statement suggests otherwise. According to Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif has become a security risk for the country as he is following an anti-Pakistan agenda just to please external powers. Nawaz Shaif should provide evidence to back his claims.
The military spokesman has also stated that Sharif should provide evidence to substantiate his claims. Nawaz Sharif will increase his criticism against the judiciary and the army in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the US is also threatening Pakistan with dire consequences if it will not do more against the militants. Pakistan has called Trump’s tweet “incomprehensible” and declared “it will do no more” during the Trump regime. US-Pakistan relations have seen several ups and downs in the last 70 years. But, this time, under President Donald Trump, America has increased the pressure manifold. In fact, America is not willing to accept its defeat in Afghanistan. Rather, it is shifting blame on Pakistan for its failure in Afghanistan.
Talat Masood writes:”From Washington’s perspective, the Haqqani Network and the Taliban Shura continue to benefit from sanctuaries in Pakistan’s tribal belt. It is not prepared to accept Pakistan’s version that these entities do not exist anymore. Moreover, according to the US’ own official sources, 13% of Afghan districts are under insurgent control and an additional 30% are disputed where largely the writ of the Taliban prevails. In this situation, the Taliban or the Haqqani Network do not need Pakistani territory to operate. In any case, whatever advantage these groups would have had in locating in Pakistan, is no more available to them. The US government holds Pakistan responsible for the activities of all militant groups that are operating within its territories. Whereas it takes no responsibility for the militant groups that are launching attacks from Afghanistan on Pakistan. Furthermore, it turns a blind eye to the support of the TTP by Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies….The Trump administration’s policy of assigning a much bigger role to India in Afghanistan and overlooking its support for anti-Pakistan militant groups cuts against Pakistan’s interests. This remains a constant point of friction and a major reason for the Pakistan military not to take an antagonist position against the Haqqanis. The US should respect Pakistan’s genuine national interest and avoid pursuing a one-sided India-biased policy. Both countries need each other for their own valid reasons. Success lies in how best to accommodate these interests”.
In an interview with the BBC, Daniel Markey, author of No Exit From Pakistan and a research professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, says Trump’s coercive strategy on Pakistan will not work.
“Pakistan has some leverage and they also have nuclear weapons. This is not a small country either. It’s about 200 million people in an important part of the world and they have other friends, including the Chinese who have been promising and delivering not just millions of dollars or tens of millions but billions of dollars in both assistance and investment…. The big issue is: It’s one thing to put pressure on Pakistan but Pakistan has very important interests in Afghanistan and the region, so it has to be a combination of increased pressure on one hand and offering some sense to Pakistan that a change in its strategy could actually work in its favour. They are still worried that we are going to leave Afghanistan, leave the problems in place and leave them without friends. So as of right now I see little chance of kind of incremental ratcheting up of pressure would actually payoff”.
America and Pakistan cannot afford a war in the region which is already in turmoil. They should solve their problems amicably by protecting each other’s interests. But, it will not be an easy task.