Nawaz Sharif is making all headlines after the “Panama Leaks” revealed last year that he and his family acquires several assets and residential properties in Dubai and London illegally. This led to a huge political uproar in the country following which the Pakistan Supreme Court set up a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) .On the basis of the evidence provided by the latter, the Supreme Court removed Sharif from office.
Before getting into the details of the bone of contention between Sharif and the Pakistani Army, let us first analyze the role of the Army in any Pakistan government.
Role of army in Pakistan government:
It is assumed that Pakistan army and Pakistan government are inter-related. The Pakistani Army works as one of the government institutions. The assumption holds its roots in the history of Pakistan, which has been marked with dictatorships. From the time of Field Marshall General Ayub Khan, the so called Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf, the total span of military rule in Pakistan has been more than 30 years. Such a huge span has left a huge impact on the minds of people leading to a common perception among the people that the civilian government cannot work properly without the intervention of the Army in government affairs.
So, clearly, the military rules Pakistan and the judges as it is evident from the recent verdict passed by the Pakistan Supreme Court, sentencing former PM Nawaz Sharif and his daughter for ten and seven years of jail respectively.
These recent happenings arouse so many questions in the minds of the general public. What makes the Pakistan Supreme Court act so hastily? Did the Supreme Court succumb to pressure of the army? Was Sharif the only one involved in the Panama leaks (The papers comprised 11.5 million files, names of over 120 politicians,-from more than 50 countries)? Is he the only politician holding unaccountable assets in a foreign land? Well, the charges against Sharif and his daughter may well be true, but the fact is corruption has been prevelant in Pakistan’s public life and the military is soaked in it as well.
The answer to all these questions gives way to another and the most important one. The question is: Why does the Army want Nawaz Sharif out? He was once a favourite of the General turned President Zia-ul-Haq who had appointed him the Chief Minister of Punjab. Certain evidences even reveal that Sharif had received Rs 3.5 lakh from the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence- the premier intelligence agency of Pakistan) prior to the parliamentary elections of 1990. Despite all this, how did the relation between Sharif and army deteriorate?
In order to get into the details of how this military coup started, let us get back into the political career of Sharif. He has served as the Prime Minister of Pakistan for three non consecutive terms and Chief Minister of Punjab for two consecutive terms. He was elected as the Prime Minister ,forming his first government from 1990-93, second in 1997, until being removed in 1999 by a military takeover of the government and third in 2013 until being disqualified for life in 2017 by Pakistan Supreme Court following the Panama Leaks. Sharif’s relation with the army started deteriorating from the time of General Mirza Aslam Beg on the issue of - Invasion of Kuwait. His relations with Beg’s successor, General Asif Nawaz were also not in cordial terms.
Sharif’s uneven relations with the army worsened during the Kargil war of 1999, which General Pervez Musharaff, then Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff had launched without fully informing him of the actual plans. Sharif was not fully informed about the adventure,and when the crisis erupted he cut a sorry figure in front of the Indian leadership with whom he was engaged in back-channel diplomacy to resolve the Kashmir conflict for good. General Musharraf blamed the ousted Prime Minister for withdrawing from Kargil in 1999 under pressure from India when the Pakistan army was in a dominating position according to him. So, the political leadership of the country was again at loggerheads with the military leadership, giving birth to another period of military rule beginning in October 1999. The army had had enough of Sharif. Parvez Musharraf was the new head of the state, and Sharif landed in jail. Sharif was even sentenced to life imprisonment by a military court following a case of “Aerial hijacking” but very surprisingly General Musharraf pardoned him on December 10, 2000 .Musharraf also allowed him and his family to leave for Saudi Arabia in a private plane provided by the Saudi Royal family.
The miseries of Sharif did not end there. He again returned to power as the Prime Minister of the country in 2013. But representing a country during a period of military growth was not a cakewalk. When he took charge in 2013, his prime motive was to build political consensus for parliamentary operation for the criminal gangs and terrorist groups that had brought Karachi to sandstill. While certain operations were carried on successfully, military continued to remain a dominating force. Sharif even tried maintaining a cordial relation with India, Afghanistan, Iran and the USA. But the Army was unhappy with the civilian government. Army felt dejected and believed that Pakistan was totally sidelined because of the government’s poor foreign policy.
Hence, the current political situation of Pakistan is no mystery. Nawaz Sharif and his daughter have been arrested. Probably, it’s fair to say that current political situation of Pakistan is in dire need of political changes if we compare it with the rest of the world. The present situation in Karachi and Baluchistan is worse than ever. Youth is missing from active politics. The blame is on the head of political parties as usual. But however we look at it, there is no denying the fact that Pakistan’s army continue to exercise its political power.