Tag Archives: Nawaz Sharif

Will Nawaz Sharif Mend Pak-US ties?

VIEW : Will Nawaz Sharif mend Pak-US ties? — Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

Dependency on the US is inevitable as this is not 1999, and the post-9/11 scenario has knitted Pakistan in the nexus of the war on terror 

With the electoral results of Pakistan at the international and national display, the triumph of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is prominent. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is geared up to take his seat as the premier of the country for the third time now. His victory speech promises the execution of his reasonable and sound manifesto (based on three Es: Energy, Economy and Education). The activities of the party, after its huge success, exhibit the renewed commitment through which Mr Sharif wants to tackle the problems entangling Pakistan. He has received a warm message from arch-rival India, the terror-ridden Afghanistan and the United States has acknowledged his election campaign and the mandate of Pakistanis in his favour. The new government will have to confront multiple challenges ranging from terrorism at home and in the region, to the faltering economy, making the country more dependent on foreign loans. In connection to this, Mr Sharif might be using his induction in the ruling position to amend the oscillating Pak-US ties during the tenure of Zardari-led coalition.

Foreign policy, especially the bilateral relations with the US, is going to be a more complex and intricate issue for the third term of Mr Sharif. A bird’s eye view of Pak-US ties since the previous tenure of Mr Sharif reflects that he took credit for the country’s nuclear tests in 1998. Even though the focus of American diplomatic strata remained converged at the objective of dissuading Pakistan from conducting the nuclear tests. At that point, every single dollar being rejected to India could have poured into Pakistan. As expected, the nuclear explosions were followed by heavy economic sanctions from the US. Adding fuel to the fire, the Kargil misadventure deteriorated the image of Pakistan and brought it under international glare. There was a rift in relations with the US.

After General Pervez Musharraf’s coup, Pakistan was stigmatised for three reasons, broadly speaking: nuclear weapons programme for its suspension of democracy, and for its support of the Taliban in Afghanistan. However, the ambiance of alliance and amicability started after 9/11. This did not last long and Pakistan;s democratic transition brought Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) into power. Since then, major developments took place and Pak-US ties wavered.

The diplomatic immunity given to Raymond Davis gave vent to anti-US sentiments in Pakistan. The events following the success of the ‘Abbottabad raid’ never made a smooth road for the allies to tread on. The dwindling relations were further deteriorated by the attack on Salala check post by the NATO forces. The public reacted strongly with protests all over the country. To contain the resentment of the masses, government took measures adversely affecting the US exit strategy from Afghanistan, including the evacuation of Shamsi air base and closure of the NATO supply line. The Zardari-led ruling coalition did not leave a grazed field near the end of its constitutional tenure by initiating the Iran-Pakistan pipeline, which was not viable in the eyes of the US. Moreover, handing over the Gawadar port to China is not a good omen for US hawks.

;Original caption: Secretary of Defense Willia...

;Original caption: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen (left) welcomes Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, of Pakistan, to the Pentagon, Dec. 3, 1998. Cohen and his senior advisors will meet with Sharif to discuss a range of regional and international issues of interest to both nations (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Senator John Kerry is likely to visit Pakistan as soon as the new government takes up the daunting task of ameliorating the socio-political set up of Pakistan. Mr Sharif has an intention to boost ties with the US. It is noteworthy that throughout the election campaign, the PML-N took a vague stance against drone strikes. Unlike its competing political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which even planned a long march against drone strikes during electioneering. The PTI has earned the confidence of the people of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. On the contrary, Pentagon has no plans to end drone strikes. US Assistant Defence Secretary Michael Sheehan has explicitly stated recently before the US Senate Committee on Armed Services that drone strikes may continue during the next two decades and war is where enemy exists (from Boston to FATA). Consequently, Americans already expect a lot from the next government of Pakistan.

The public opinion in Pakistan is antagonistic to US aspirations. According to the Pew Research Global attitudes Project, “Only 11 percent of Pakistanis express a positive opinion of the US.” Not only this, but “64 percent of Pakistanis consider the US as an enemy.” The report released on May 7, 2013, further explains that the US is getting extraordinarily negative ratings in Pakistan. Under such circumstances, maintaining a necessity-based friendship would be an arduous task for Mr Sharif and his cabinet. Dependency on the US is inevitable as this is not 1999, and the post-9/11 scenario has knitted Pakistan in the nexus of the war on terror. Islamabad will have to sustain a smooth relationship with Washington by using Mr Sharif’s prudence. This will be the most expeditious diplomatic move that Nawaz Sharif will have to make, while keeping in view the sentiments of the masses that voted for his party.

The writer is a student of BS Communication Studies at University of the Punjab and blogs at She Tweets at @Fakiha_Rizvi

Originally published in Daily Times newspaper


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PML-N’s Relations with the Press and Media

Fakiha Hassan Rizvi
May 26, 2013

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League –Nawaz (PML-N) is geared up to govern Pakistan, under the leadership of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. Third chance to grasp the throne, inevitably, precipitates multiple hopes, expectations and above all, renewed political acumen.

A substantial mandate and favorable public opinion has made Nawaz indebted towards the nation. Members of the civil society appreciate his humility, however, in my opinion, this should have been an obvious outcome, keeping in view the degree of trust that the nation bestowed upon him. Several factors contributed to his victory. Among the long list, projection given to PML-N by the media stands out.

Few months before the elections almost all the television channels made their prime time slot anchor persons sit in the Metro bus with Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, the then Chief Minister of Punjab province (and hopefully the new one as well). Three exclusive interviews were given by Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif to a single private television channel in 2012.

On the other hand, his younger brother always enticed media’s eye with his fiery rhetoric and unique speeches studded with rhythmic abstracts from the poems of Habib Jalib. Shahbaz even encountered the ‘youthful Tsunami’ under the captaincy of Imran Khan and organized events like Youth Festival to get Pakistan’s name in the Guinness Book of World Records. The partnership of Guinness World Record with the Punjab Youth Festival was peculiar and a rare accord in the country’s history. Whatever the reasons, it provided PML-N immense ‘media exposure’ before the formal electioneering campaigns began.

A glance at the past explains that the present-day press in general had been quite sympathetic towards PML-N in the context of party’s relations with the media during its previous tenure. During 1999’s Nawaz had become increasingly intolerant and frequent attempts were made to muzzle the media. Journalists were harassed and victimized during 1988-99.

– Mahmud Lodhi (a Lahore-based journalist), was picked up and held in illegal custody for two days. He was inquired about his involvement with a BBC team filming a documentary on the rise and wealth of the Sharif family.

– CIA police raided the residence of Idrees Bakhtiar, staff reporter of the Herald and Karachi-based correspondent of the BBC. This was the fate of journalists and media professionals associated with international media outlets like the BBC.

Those affiliated with national or regional publications were gagged more severely.

– The owner of The Frontier Post, Rehmat Shah Afridi, was arrested in Lahore on April 2, 1999. The Peshawar-based Frontier Post was critical of government’s policies.

– Najam Sethi, the Editor of Friday Times was arrested from his house in Lahore in the most unethical and humiliating manner reportedly on the orders of Nawaz Sharif. Later, Nawaz Sharif reportedly asked the then Chief of Army Staff General Musharraf to charge Mr. Sethi under the Pakistan Army Act for being a traitor.

– The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a press freedom organization, said on June 1, 1999 that it was conducting an investigation into a “hit list” prepared by the Pakistan government that had names of 35 prominent Pakistani journalists. According to reports received by the CPJ, the federal government had decided to establish a special media cell comprising officials from the police, Intelligence Bureau and the Federal Investigation Agency to punish journalists, who had been writing against the government.

The aforementioned examples don’t indicate PML-N as a tolerant party when it comes to the press. It shouldn’t be forgotten that ‘if’ Nawaz believed in a free and impartial national media, he could have stopped dictatorial boots from coming in the political arena of the country for the third time. The army could have taken over the PTV station at that time as it was the only broadcast television channel then. Had there been networks like Geo TV and more space for journalists to express their opinions, things would have been nearly impossible for General Musharraf.

PML-N needs to revise the past acts against the media and press. The party shouldn’t forget what the media has done to make its success certain in the general elections of 2013. In the latest article published in Newsweek, which considered Nawaz to be the most significant leader in Pakistan’s history after Jinnah it has been suggested that the PML-N should avoid its over-responsiveness to the media and be more logical. Among other obvious indicators of good governance, PML-N’s relations with the press and media would be under stringent observation this time.

(The writer is a student of BS Mass Communication at the University of the Punjab and blogs at


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Memoirs of ‘Military rule’ in Turkey and Pakistan

The path cobbled by both, Turkey and Pakistan to engender democratic trends has been more or less the same. Pakistanis and Turks, paid a heavy price to triumph over authoritarian suppression. Recently, the Turkish premier, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, claimed that ‘the era of military coups is over’ for the Turks. His opponents might call it an exaggeration, but Erdogan considers ‘Turkey’ as an exemplary political set-up for Muslim countries around the world to emulate. He has a substantial justification for christening ‘Turkey’ as an ideal Muslim nation, fostering secularism, pursuing the most advanced form of democracy and curbing authoritarianism. The ruling Justice and Development Party, which came to power in 2002 has maintained Turkey’s decades-old secular system, but at the same time has curtailed the power of the military. The latest number of military officers entering into the prison is ‘326’. They are being charged for their fruitless efforts to derail democracy in 2003. The Pakistani leadership hasn’t been audacious enough to figure out the ‘belligerent generals’ in the military cadre. Those mighty boots, which enter into politics by legitimizing their actions, exercised free will as no one punished them for their transgressions. The longest-serving, elected civilian regime of Pakistan (Pakistan Peoples Party and its coalition partners) bade farewell to the ‘US-tamed’ dictator by giving him a ‘guard of honour’.

Four military interventions have hampered democratic systems in Pakistan and Turkey. However, the political evolution and constitutional development has been strikingly different for both the countries. The creation of Pakistan was itself a miracle and its sustenance turned out to be a greater miracle. Being a vulnerable nation fraught with innumerable challenges after the partition in 1947, Pakistan lost her indispensable leader. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah‘s demise provided an opportunity to the politicians for displaying their ‘lust for power’. A delay in the process of constitution-making followed by a lot of controversies allowed two key players to step into the political premises. The ‘clergy’ and the ‘army’ began to expand their influence in terms of penetration and dictate. A weak political management aided the army to become more independent as an institution. The proclamation of martial law and the abrogation of constitution was not a ‘hard-nut to crack’ under such circumstances.

General Ayub Khan, General Yahya Khan and General Zia ul Haq (from left to right)

President Muhammad Ayub Khan with his ‘Basic Democrats’ was the first one to propagate the idea that ‘democracy’ is a ‘luxury’ which Pakistan couldn’t afford. In 1958, the first military attaché’ to Washington, Brigadier Ghulam Gillani was instructed by General Ayub to acquire military equipment from Pentagon (without taking the foreign office into confidence). It was from this day that civilians weren’t credible enough to govern Pakistan or to put it in another way, ‘army’ alone had the right to decide high profile issues. The uneven and unjust economic development during Ayub’s era led to the creation of Bangladesh. Ayub was an epitome of self-indulgence. Politics of the downtrodden apparently came into light during 1971, but it was soon extinguished by ‘Operation Fairplay‘ in 1977. Charismatic Bhutto was placed under ‘protective custody’ and later hanged during the regime of General Muhamamd Zia ul Haq. Judiciary served as a compatriot for the second Chief Marital Law Administrator who called himself a ‘soldier of Islam’. The press was chained and political activities were disbanded by mutilating the constitution. Zia’s ‘Islamization’ had nothing to do with the enactment of Islamic principles, rather it was an attempt to gain the support of Islamic political parties and to remain in power. Zia’s miserable death in a plane crash paved the way for Nawaz Sharif and late Benazir Bhutto to take part in politics. During Benazir’s tenure, the military, by and large stood by her. Nawaz Sharif managed to make Pakistan a nuclear power, but the Kargil misadventure brought another military blow to Pakistan.

A new era began in Pakistan on October 12, 1999. General Pervez Musharraf (a Kemalist- inspired dictator), who got his mid-career training from Turkey declared himself ‘chief executive’. His regime was no different with regards to pattern and operation. Like the previous military interventions, Musharraf began with a call for ‘change’, ‘reform’ and a message of ‘hope’. By suspending parts of the constitution, he too stigmatised the corrupt politicians. Later on, like Ayub and Zia his hybrid democracy with a few turncoats legitimized his uniform. However, what made his situation different was Pakistan’s role in the war against terrorism and the media boom that was triggered by him. The cry for accountability was loudest during his tenure, but ended silently with the malfunctioning of NAB (National Accountability Bureau). The historic ‘judicial activism’ in 2008, finally ousted General Musharraf with the help of civil society and a vibrant media.

The history of democracy in Turkey has not been without its ups and downs. Turkey was transformed into a Republic by Mustafa Kemal (‘Ataturk’- King of the Turks, the honorific surname bestowed upon him by Turkish parliament) in 1923. It became a successor state of Ottaman empire. The transition in 1923 from monarchy to republic marked a profound political, economic and social transformation for Turkey. Western concepts of democracy, human rights and the responsibility of the state had been infused over there. The years from 1923 to 1946 brought institutional, political and cultural preparation for democracy. It was a time of radical changes in legislation, in education and in the administrative structure of the state. The Second World War briefly interrupted this political evolution, but national elections were held for the first time in 1946. In 1950, the voters elected an opposition party and the Government changed hands, thus ending the one-party system.

The first decade after 1950 was marked by violent antagonism between political parties and popular unrest. This led the way for the first coup in 1960 when the army arrested all members of the ruling Democrat Party and put them on trial. The leaders of the coup made General Cemal Gürsel, who had not taken any role in the coup, head of state, prime minister and the minister of defence upon completion of the military take-over. The democratic process restarted in 1961. The political confrontation was aggravated by social confrontations and economic recession. The Chief of the General Staff, Memduh Tağmaç, handed the prime minister a memorandum, really amounting to an ultimatum by the armed forces. It demanded “the formation, within the context of democratic principles, of a strong and credible government, which will neutralize the current anarchical situation and which, inspired by Atatürk’s views, will implement the reformist laws envisaged by the constitution”, putting an end to the “anarchy, civil strife, and social and economic unrest”. If the demands were not met, the army would “exercise its constitutional duty” and take over power itself, which it did in 1971. In 1973, Ecevit, won an upset victory. Nevertheless, the same problems highlighted in the memorandum re-emerged. From 1980 to 1983 the Turkish Armed Forces, headed by Chief of the General Staff General Kenan Evren ruled the country through the National Security Council, before democracy was restored. After 17 years, a ‘postmodern coup’ was installed. Çevik Bir, one of the generals who planned the process said that “In Turkey we have a marriage of Islam and democracy. The child of this marriage is secularism. Now this child gets sick from time to time. The Turkish Armed Forces is the doctor, which saves the child. Depending on how sick the kid is, we administer the necessary medicine to make sure the child recuperates”.

By contrasting the Turkish and Pakistani military interventions it becomes obvious that Pakistan has endured longer spells of dictatorship without any formal ‘memorandums of warning’ to the elected governments. The Turkish courts have even convicted elderly leaders of Turkey’s 1980 military coup, Kenan Evren and Tahsin Sahinkaya. On the other hand, in Pakistan, the former President and Chief Executive, Pervez Musharraf is giving long interviews on private channels of electronic media. Recently, the present Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani had high-level engagements with the Russian political leadership. This is sufficient to gauge the ‘extent’ to which the army is still rooted in the political nexus of Pakistan. It is largely due to the military’s ‘political and economic predatoriness’. Funds like ‘Fauji Foundation’ and ‘Armed Forces Mutual Assistance Fund’ still remain unquestionable. The Indian-threat has permitted the increase in defence budget, which lends financial autonomy to the Pakistani military. Another fresh scam in which retired military generals accused of being involved in a multi-billion embezzlement of National Logistics Cell (NLC) is being dealt by the General Head Quarters (GHQ). This makes it clear that the military has its own courts for dealing with its generals through self-devised rules. Fair trial of law-violators in Pakistani military can precipitate the army out of the political equation. Memoirs of military rule in Turkey teach Pakistan that the weakening of military tutelage over political regime is possible, only through the shrinkage of military’s influence on ‘organs’ of the state.

The verbal content of this post was originally published in the November issue of Jahangir’s World Times

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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in International Affairs


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