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  Opinion   Edit  07 Jul 2018  India-Pak ties difficult with Nawaz sentencing

India-Pak ties difficult with Nawaz sentencing

Published : Jul 8, 2018, 12:02 am IST
Updated : Jul 7, 2018, 11:09 pm IST

The unfolding political scenario in our neighbouring country will doubtless be absorbing.

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (Photo: AP)
 Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (Photo: AP)

The sentencing, in absentia, last Friday of former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment, in addition to a fine of £8 million, by the National Accountability Bureau court in a corruption case involving a valuable London property linked to Panama Papers, is shot through with politics.

This is not necessarily to rule out the plausibility of the corruption angle, as corruption is the variable common to the international political elites, not least in the developing world. However, the sense of political play — and in Pakistan’s case nothing but political play — is deepened when it is appreciated that the Pakistani judiciary has acted in subservience to the executive, usually the military authorities, for most of Pakistan’s existence.

In the present instance, the role of the military as political engineers appears all the more plausible since national elections are due to be held on July 25, and in preparation for this the floodgates have been opened for the first time to members of terrorist outfits to contest elections.

The shadow of this could have a long-term impact on unsettling the polity within Pakistan, and in prejudicing Pakistan’s ties with India.

It is worrying to think of terrorists running riot over the political landscape of Pakistan in their new avatar of elected representatives while Mr Sharif, who not long ago was hounded out as Prime Minister following a dubious Supreme Court-guided financial investigation in which men of military intelligence made their presence felt, is packed away in jail along with his daughter and political heir-apparent Maryam Sharif.

The whole idea appears to be to get Mr Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), out of the reckoning in the coming election in the absence of active campaigning by him. His younger brother Shahbaz Sharif, who is holding the reins of the party in the absence of his charismatic brother, is said to be mulling accommodation with the authorities.

This can only further weaken the PML(N), especially on its home turf of Punjab. Already in South Punjab, there are reports that PML(N) candidates, at the behest of the military, have withdrawn their candidature at the last minute, thus leaving the field open for rivals.

Mr Nawaz Sharif has vowed to return from London, where his wife is hospitalised for throat cancer, before the election in order to resist the authorities from jail, to which he will surely be marched off from the airport as he lands. The unfolding political scenario in our neighbouring country will doubtless be absorbing.

But with terrorists now calling the shots in the political field in all likelihood, with the military playing puppet-masters — exactly the allegation made against the military by Mr Nawaz Sharif earlier — we may expect the situation to worsen in Kashmir and more military confrontations being provoked by Pakistan and its backers as the state labours to make some progress under Governor’s Rule. The prognosis for India-Pakistan relations cannot be good.

Tags: nawaz sharif, panama papers