End of Nawaz Sharif’s political career

The Pakistan Supreme Court has disqualified former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from holding any public office for life on charges of corruption. Sharif was convicted for acquiring vast property abroad through corrupt means. This brings to an end Sharif’s political career for good. He had earlier been ousted from the office of the PM and later as head of his party, the PML(N). While presidents and prime ministers of Pakistan are known for their corruption – former president Asif Ali Zardari earned the epithet of ‘Mr Ten Per Cent’ – it may not have been corruption alone that brought about Sharif’s downfall. His running feud with the Pakistan military, which traditionally calls the shots in Pakistan, is well known.
Last year, there was a movement of radical Islamic clerics demanding Pakistan Law Minister Zaheed Hameed’s resignation for changing the wording of the oath of office requiring the law-makers to swear by Prophet Mohammed. Though the movement was apparently directed against Hameed but it was apparent that there was more in it than met the eye. The Pakistan army openly took the side of the agitators and ultimately brokered a ‘peace’ between them and the government of Nawaz Sharif. Hameed resigned. Pakistan watchers believed at that time that the real motive of the movement was to weaken and oust Nawaz Sharif himself.
Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa’s latest statement calling for a ‘comprehensive and meaningful dialogue’ between India and Pakistan for peaceful resolution of disputes ‘including the core issue of Kashmir’ shows the role the army is playing in the politics and foreign relations of the country. The democratically elected civil government can only watch from the sidelines and say ‘yes’ to whatever the military establishment says and does. The army might have played a behind-the-scene role in the Supreme Court decision to send Sharif to permanent political exile. The Supreme Court disqualified Sharif under Article 62(1)(f) of the Pakistan Constitution which does not mention the period of disqualification. The Supreme Court took advantage of this to disqualify Sharif for life. Very few will shed tears for Sharif but it will send a message to his successor Shahbaz Sharif, who happens to be Nawaz Sharif’s brother that he has always to be on the right side of the military. As long as he keeps the army in good humour, his prime ministership will be suffered. Any attempt at exercising his constitutional powers will send him into political wilderness.

Tuesday, 24 April, 2018