Politics in Pakistan is playing out true to type with PML-N supremo waz Sharif failing for the third time to end his term as Prime Minister, despite securing a massive mandate in 2013. In the seven decades since it became independent, Pakistan has seen no Prime Minister ever completing a full 5-year term. This time though, instead of an army coup, Sharif had to quit after the Supreme Court disqualified him, like it had done his predecessor Yousaf Raza Gilani in 2012. Sharif’s exit is a fallout of the Pama Papers leak, which last year had linked Sharif’s family to lucrative offshore businesses. In April this year, the Pak apex court had held that the evidence was not sufficient to remove Sharif from office, and had ordered a probe by a joint investigative panel. In three months though, this panel submitted its report, detailing ‘proof’ of Sharif’s family assets not matching its known earnings, and ‘irregularities’ like Sharif not declaring his United Arab Emirates company FZE Capital’s income in his nomition papers. However, the Supreme Court this time held Sharif guilty not for corruption, but for not being “truthful” and “righteous” as a Member of Parliament under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. While announcing his resigtion in an official statement, Sharif has mentioned having “serious reservations” about the verdict, while most legal experts have cast doubts about the fairness of the trial and whether Sharif can be disqualified for life. Diplomatic observers however believe that all has not been well between Sharif and the powerful army for quite some time, and the generals have now got their own back. They point to the ‘Dawn leak’ episode, a report carried by Pakistan’s leading newspaper in October last year about a high-level civil-military meeting in which Prime Minister Sharif’s brother had a “verbal confrontation” with the powerful head of Pakistani intelligence over the army’s support to militants, notably its “strategic assets” like Hafez Sayed-led Lashkar responsible for the Mumbai terror attacks and Masood Azhar-led Jaish-e-Mohammed which had carried out the attack on Indian Parliament. Embarrassed, the Sharif government set up a committee to investigate the leak and sacked the PM’s special assistant on foreign affairs. However, the army was not mollified and rejected the panel’s report. All this merely goes to show that the army calls the shots in Pakistan in cahoots with the jihadi network, with Imran Khan’s Tehreek-i-Insaaf lending it full support. waz Sharif’s brother Shahbaz, Chief Minister of Punjab province, is expected to take over as PM in 45 days if he is elected to Parliament. Even if this power switch materialises, the PML-N government will have to do a lot of bending over backwards to keep the generals off its back. This can only mean a more rabid hardline on Kashmir in the coming days.
Exit waz Sharif