FeaturedNationalVolume 13 Issue # 20

Sharif’s attack on his own party

After months of attacks on the establishment and the judiciary, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has blown himself up near his own political party. In a bid to escape jail in corruption cases, he has implicated Pakistan for the Mumbai attacks but his remarks will only eliminate the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the next election instead of causing harm to the country.


The former prime minister’s words against his own country were music to international forces and India, the archrival of Pakistan. In a way, he attempted to express solidarity with international forces which are inimical to Pakistan and accuse it of sponsoring terrorism in the world. He wanted to convey a message to them that he shared their concern but was helpless before the establishment of Pakistan. His pro-India stance is not only dangerous for him but also his family and political party. He still thinks the establishment can save him from certain sentencing in corruption cases. His past experience proves it. He has been facing charges of corruption since he entered politics over three decades ago. He remained unharmed because the establishment stood by him. He has continuously been putting pressure on the establishment to rescue him by attacking the judiciary since the Supreme Court took up the Panama case. Then, he started blaming “aliens,” an indirect reference to the army, for his problems. The purpose was to force the army to arrange an escape route for him. When all tactics failed, he attacked Pakistan to force the army to find a way out for him. However, it has also failed and will prove detrimental for him, his family and party.


Over 70 MNAs and PMAs of the PML-N have already left the party and Nawaz Sharif’s latest remarks will force most electables to quit his party. It appears few people will be interested in his party’s ticket for the next election. Politicians will prefer to run independently rather than contesting the election on his ticket. The ruling party had to extend the last date for applications for party tickets for the upcoming elections after a poor response. It had formed a parliamentary board and sought applications from May 15 to 20. However, PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif tweeted that ticket aspirants could submit applications till May 25. “Those interested in getting PML-N tickets for general elections 2018 may submit their applications from May 15 to 25. Procedure (is) mentioned below,” Shahbaz tweeted. His tweet showed panic in the camp in the wake of Nawaz Sharif’s controversial statement. After a formal announcement, Shahbaz was not supposed to take to social media and send a reminder to party people to apply for tickets. The tweet expressed his fear that there might not be many aspirants for party tickets in the current situation.


Voices have also risen in the party against Nawaz Sharif’s narrative. In its parliamentary party meeting, PML-N legislators unanimously reached the conclusion that they should not go into the general elections with Nawaz Sharif’s narrative of confrontation with the establishment and the judiciary. According to media reports, Shahbaz Sharif, who has recently replaced Nawaz Sharif as PML-N president, agreed that the former prime minister should soften his stance. After the meeting, a federal minister told reporters that there was a divide in the party as some parliamentarians backed Shahbaz Sharif’s point of view while others supported the narrative of Nawaz Sharif. Former Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan was present in Parliament House but he did not attend the meeting. Shahbaz Sharif expressed annoyance over the interview of Nawaz Sharif and said the man who had arranged it was “the biggest enemy of Nawaz Sharif”.


However, it was Nawaz Sharif himself who had arranged a special plane for his favourite reporter of a preferred newspaper to interview him in Multan. He had also used the two to malign the army in Dawnleaks. According to journalists, who were present there, the reporter had not even asked a question on the Mumbai attacks but Nawaz Sharif himself chose the topic to please India and international forces. “We have isolated ourselves. Despite giving sacrifices, our narrative is not being accepted. Afghanistan’s narrative is being accepted, but ours is not. We must look into it. Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial? It’s absolutely unacceptable. This is exactly what we are struggling for. President Putin has said it. President Xi has said it,” he replied to a question on reasons behind his ouster as prime minister. He failed to mention that Pakistan could not complete the trail because of lack of cooperation by India and actionable evidence against the accused.


In its reaction to the controversial interview, the US said Nawaz Sharif’s statement on the Mumbai attacks was an inflection point for the country. In a media briefing at the Pentagon, Assistant to the Secretary of Defence for Public Affairs Dana White reiterated that the US expected more from Pakistan and hoped it would play a major role in maintaining peace. Indian journalist Burkah Dutt wrote in the Washington Post, “Indians are feeling morally vindicated that a mainstream politician in Pakistan has finally spoken the truth about the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008. Nawaz Sharif acknowledged the perpetrators to be Pakistani and alluded to the deliberate delay in bringing the conspirators to justice. He was hardly sharing classified or even new information. So why have his comments led to a train wreck? With these words, Sharif has directly taken on Pakistan’s all-powerful army and the security satraps who continue to rule the country from the shadows. We in India may applaud the moment, but our sense of vindication is premature. What is being touted is not really the Pakistani Deep State’s patronage of terrorism and its asymmetric war against India, since everyone knows about that. What is being revealed is the serious friction between a democratically elected civilian politician and the generals who control governments in a country at war with itself. This development will sadly change nothing for India, or for the families of the victims of the terrorist attack. All of this is more about Pakistan’s domestic fissures. Nawaz Sharif has gone all in with this high-risk gamble for survival.”


Even Indians believe Nawaz Sharif’s outburst aimed at his personal survival. He believes his politics and party will survive if he escapes punishment in the corruption cases. In the process, he has committed hara kiri on his own party, proving his critics right that he has been his own worst enemy throughout his political career.