Tag Archives: Nawaz Sharif

Nawaz Sharif Should Cancel His US Visit In Protest

Nawaz Sharif and Raheel Sharif

Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, is due to arrive in Washington this week for three days of meetings with his US counterparts where he is expected to “reaffirm Pakistan’s national interests.” The Prime Minister is not, however, the only Pakistani official traveling to Washington. In fact, despite the headlines, Nawaz Sharif may be the least influential Pakistani official to make his way to Washington.

Before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif left for Washington, another Pakistani quietly arrived in town to hold high-level meetings with American officials. These meetings have not received the same triumphant media attention as the Prime Minister’s, despite likely having far more significance. That official? Lieutenant General Rizwan Akhtar, Director General of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). According to Pakistani media,

The DG ISI, upon his return Sunday evening, will present a report to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and brief the premier regarding details of his discussions with US officials. Nawaz is expected to depart for the US following the briefing.

The ISI chief’s briefing is probably necessary as it is unlikely that the Prime Minister is aware of what was discussed by the General beforehand despite the fact that Nawaz Sharif technically holds the Foreign Minister’s portfolio in addition to his responsibility as Prime Minister. It is well accepted that Pakistan’s civilian officials have little to no say in matters of foreign policy or national security. Even Nawaz Sharif’s “Foreign Policy Advisor,” Sartaj Aziz, is being replaced with a military officerLieutenant General Naseer Khan Janjua, who conveniently retired from the military a few days ago. Neither will Prime Minister Sharif have the last word with American officials. After he returns to Pakistan, his visit will be followed up by the man most accept as the true head of the Pakistani state, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif.

If you think bookending a Prime Minister’s high-profile visit with low-profile visits from high ranking military officers looks like dressing up a military regime with a civilian facade, maybe that’s because it is. That was the assessment of Vali Nasr, Dean of the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a former Senior Advisor at the US State Department.

“Nawaz Sharif’s administration has fallen into the same pattern as [former] President [Asif Ali] Zardari, which means that there is a very stable civilian façade that actually does not make any critical decisions, particularly on security issues that [are] very obviously delegated to the military,” Nasr, who served as Special Adviser to Obama’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2009 to 2011, said in a panel discussion at the Atlantic Council.

When it comes to Pakistan’s Afghan, Indian, and general security policies, the “real decisionmakers” are in the military, specifically Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif, said Nasr. “That’s the new normal in Pakistan: No coups, civilian governments that will end their terms but basically make no waves.”

Herein lies the problem. By allowing Pakistan’s military to keep up this charade, the US is undermining Pakistani democracy and facilitating an unsustainable political situation in which Pakistan’s military is increasingly in control behind the scenes while civilians are left taking responsibility for social and economic problems. American officials may believe, as they have in the past, that this is an unfortunate but necessary outcome from American reliance on Pakistani military cooperation in Afghanistan, but there’s increasing evidence that this reliance on Pakistan’s military is actually undermining progress in Afghanistan. As Pakistani analyst Cyril Almeida explained yesterday, it’s Pakistan’s military – not the civilians – who gain from letting the war drag on.

The way the US has defined its interests means what it basically needs from Pakistan are security things. And that shapes who is relevant here and who is not.

Since 9/11, there’s nothing the US has asked of Pakistan that makes civilians relevant. When you’re incidental to the biggest foreign policy and national security demands from the biggest player in the world, that distorts what happens at home.

Which is a pity. No mainstream civilian wants to dominate Afghanistan. None consider militants to be a tool of statecraft or a fundamental ally. None advocate more and more nukes.

Whether it’s Afghanistan, militancy or nuclear weapons, most civilians do not have the same approach as the army’s. That’s why the army needs to dominate them.

Four years ago, Admiral Mullen defined the Haqqani Network, a group of Islamist militants responsible for killing American soldiers, as “a veritable arm of the ISI.” Just last month, the State Department issued a statement lamenting Pakistan’s continued unwillingness to stop the Haqqani Network and other Islamist groups responsible for destabilizing South Asia, a problem the White House continues to press Pakistan on. A few days ago the Associated Press reported that US analysts believe ISI operatives are coordinating Taliban attacks against US troops in Afghanistan. One would think this would be enough to convince US leaders of the need to re-prioritize relations with Pakistan’s civilians over continuing what Bruce Riedel has described as the “deadly embrace” with Pakistan’s military leadership. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case. And so it is left to Pakistan’s civilian leadership to do something to change this disastrous course.

Shortly after Pakistan’s previous civilian government took power in 2008, then-Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani announced that control of the ISI would be shifted to the portfolio of the civilian Interior Ministry. It was only a matter of hours before the Pakistan Army’s spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, told the media that no such change would occur. The civilians promptly retracted the decision. In contrast, Pakistan’s present civilian government has largely given the Army wide latitude. The results speak for themselves.

Despite a concerted (and admittedly impressive) public relations campaign designed to depict a Pakistan ascending, there is little reason to believe that much has changed for the better. Islamist militant groups continue to operate openly while secular political parties like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement are targeted by paramilitary forces, and retired military officers call for expanding the raids to include other secular political parties. And while many are quick to cite the decline in fatalities over the past year, the fact remains that Pakistan suffered over 800 terrorist attacks in the first eight months of this year alone. Just last week, a suicide bomber carried out an attack against a member of the Prime Minister’s political party in his home province of Punjab. Meanwhile, relations with both India and Afghanistan continue to sink to new lows.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, may believe that he has no choice but to play his role in this absurd charade. He’s probably right. While Pakistan’s military would only stand to lose by carrying out an obvious coup d’etat, they remain firmly in control and there are plenty of political opportunists waiting in the wings to fill Nawaz’s role should he fail to perform as expected. Playing along may provide short-term protections, but the long-term outlook is bleak. The Prime Minister’s political party is losing support along with civilian democracy. When historians look back on Nawaz Sharif’s third-term as Prime Minister, will they see a strong national leader, or a willing puppet?

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is reportedly stopping in London en route to Washington for his three day visit. He should stay and enjoy a shopping trip at Harrod’s. The Prime Minister would better serve his country if he canceled his visit to the US in protest of the US government’s complicity in the undermining of Pakistan’s civilian democracy. He would likely be serving his own interests as well.

Madiha Afzal: Pakistan Needs To Control the Narrative

Excellent post by Madiha Afzal on the need for Pakistan’s leadership to take control of the national narrative and articulate a vision for the country’s future.

Slowly but surely, independent voices countering the Taliban narrative are being silenced. Last month, the Express Tribune, for which I write a regular column, was attacked for the third time in a few months. Three staff members were killed. After the attack, I was asked by the newspaper’s editors to refrain from writing about terrorism for the time being.

So Mr. Sharif must step up now and articulate his vision of Pakistan’s future. He must stand up for the sanctity of Pakistan’s constitution and its democracy. He must set preconditions for any future talks. Talks have to be held under Pakistan’s constitution—no ifs, no buts. His government must state its unwillingness to compromise on women’s rights, the rights of minorities and Pakistan’s place in the world. Most of all, if he is to win the war of words and ideas with the Taliban, and, along with it, the hearts and minds of Pakistani citizens, Mr. Sharif must start talking to the Pakistani people. Otherwise the TTP wins.

You can read the full article on the Brookings website.

Address by H.E. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Before the UN General Assembly

Address by

H.E. Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif

Prime-Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

The General Debate of the Sixty-eighth Session The United Nations General Assembly

New York, 27 September 2013

Mr. President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I congratulate you on your election as the President of the United Nations General Assembly. It is a fitting recognition of your distinguished career.

I also commend Mr. Vuk Jeremic, for his outstanding leadership of the General Assembly in the past one year.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has led the organization ably and wisely. We were glad to receive him in Pakistan in mid-August, as our honored guest on the anniversary of the Independence Day of Pakistan.

Mr. President,

I stand here today before this Assembly, soon after my country has seen a new dawn.

I come before this house in all humility, as the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, for the third time. I feel exonerated, as my supporters and I stood firm in our commitment to democracy in the long years of exile, exclusion and state oppression,

I am happy to inform the distinguished delegates that we now have a strong Parliament, an independent judiciary, a free media and a vibrant civil society.

But there is no room for complacency. We cannot lower our guard. Democracy needs constant vigilance and strong institutions. It needs careful nurturing. Most importantly, it is not promises, but good governance that sustains democracy.

My Government has put people at the centre. We will work to give them peace and security, an environment of growth and development. I am pursuing an inclusive approach for the entire nation.

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The Fourth Option For US-Pakistan Relations

Joe Biden, Nawaz Sharif, John Kerry, ShahbazSharif

As 2014, and the eventual withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan that will come with it, rapidly approaches, analysts in Washington are working to influence the direction of US policy in the region. Unfortunately, much of what is being bandied about as a new direction looks an awful lot like the well-worn path that brought us where we are today. With the recent handover of power between two democratic governments, it’s time to try something new with Pakistan.

In response to a question about the key constructs of the US engagement with Pakistan post-2014, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations Dan Markey recently outlined three options for the US:

  • The United States would devote the bulk of its efforts to protecting itself from Pakistan-based threats (terrorism, nuclear weapons, and general instability) by relying on coercion, deterrence, and closer military cooperation with neighboring India and Afghanistan.
  • The United States would focus on cultivating a businesslike negotiating relationship with Pakistan’s military—still Pakistan’s most powerful institution—in order to advance specific U.S. counterterrorism and nuclear goals.
  • The United States would work with and provide support to Pakistan’s military and civilian leadership as well as civil society in ways that would, over time, tip the scales in favor of greater stability in Pakistan and more peaceful relations between Pakistan and its neighbors, Afghanistan, Iran, India, and China.

At the end of his piece, Markey recommends a combination of all three strategies. But this is exactly the strategy that the US has been pursuing, and to little success. There are several reasons why this policy cannot work. First of all, partnering with India in a policy of coercion is mutually exclusive to developing a productive relationship with Pakistan. More importantly, though, Markey’s recommendations place too much emphasis on continuing to focus on relations with Pakistan’s powerful military at the expense of the democratically elected civilian government. And it is the democratically elected civilian government that is key to ending Pakistan’s problem with militancy.

Nawaz Sharif, having already experienced the consequences of military adventurism during his previous time as Prime Minister, has demonstrated a willingness to confront Pakistan’s military about its alleged involvement with extremist militants. Following the discover of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif was one of the few politicians to demand answers from the military about how the world’s most wanted man could live undetected for years just outside the Kakul Military Academy. And his pursuit of treason charges against former military dictator Pervez Musharraf has united civilian politicians across party lines despite the concerns of some former military officers.

Since being elected Prime Minister earlier this year, Nawaz Sharif has also pursued improved relations with India, including continuing the policy of improving bilateral trade and economic cooperation begun under the previous government.

Dan Markey’s approach would threaten the progress that is currently being made by breathing new life into military dominance just as the civilians are starting to get a strong foothold, and driving a wedge into Pakistan-India relations just as they are on the brink of a breakthrough.

Rather than reprise past policies, the US should take the fourth option: Treating the democratically elected civilian government as the legitimate policy-making authority; providing significant support for civil society by investing in domestic capacity building for key areas including education, energy, and law enforcement; and using its growing influence to reassure India that continuing to work towards improved trade and economic relations are the most effective path towards boosting Pakistan’s national security perception and eliminating its reliance on militant groups as part of their national security strategy.

For decades, the US has pursued a relationship that overemphasizes the military’s power, resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the military is “still Pakistan’s most powerful institution” at the expense of democratic progress, civil development, and regional security. It’s time to try something new.

US ‘cautiously optimistic’ about Nawaz Sharif

Waris HusainAs the dust settles on Pakistan’s elections, Nawaz Sharif is gearing up to lead the country for a third time, and experts in Washington seem to be feeling cautiously optimistic. Many US-Pakistan experts expressed relief that Sharif won over Imran Khan, weighing Khan’s proposed hardline policy with the US and his lack of foreign policy experience in contrast to Sharif. At the same time, analysts realize that the dynamics of the US-Pakistan relationship will change under Sharif’s administration, as he will be more likely to push back against US demands than the People’s Party. This new dynamic will require the US to pursue a tactical relationship that is cognizant of both the shared and dissimilar interests of the two countries, potentially leading to greater stability.

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The dawning of a new era?

Pakistan-India-Trip-2012

This month has seen significant developments in the hope for peace and stability in South Asia. President Zardari traveled to Delhi for one-on-one talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Both sides reported that the meeting went very well, and Prime Minister Singh has accepted an invitation from the Pakistani president to visit Pakistan soon.

The bilateral meeting preceded an unrelated trade fair in New Delhi where Pakistani businesses showed off their products to Indian buyers and investors, and India opening up to foreign investment from Pakistan “to deepen our economic engagement.”

But it isn’t just economic ties that have improved recently. President Zardari’s trip almost didn’t happen after an avalanche buried over 100 Pakistani soldiers stationed on the remote Siachen glacier a few days prior.

The tragedy at Siachen served as a stark reminder of the decades-long military standoff that has dominated security concerns in the region, diverting vast resources to defense budgets in both Pakistan and India. From Delhi, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Tweeted, “It is such a shame tht 2 countries w/ such large segments of our population live in desperate poverty must spend so much on weapons” – a sentiment soon echoed by Pakistan’s military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

“Peaceful coexistence between the two neighbours is very important so that everybody can concentrate on the well-being of the people,” he told reporters…“We in the army understand very well that there should be a very good balance between defence and development. You cannot be spending on defence alone and forgetting about development,” he said.

“Ultimately the security of a country is not only that you secure boundaries and borders but it is when people that live in the country feel happy, their needs are being met. Only in that case will a country be truly safe.” He said national security should be a comprehensive concept.

In a further sign of progress, India’s Defense Minister, M.M. Pallam Raju, welcomed Gen. Kayani’s remarks.

With general elections expected in Pakistan next year and the year after in India, either government could change hands. Fortunately, the political environment appears to have changed to such an extent that even President Zardari’s biggest rival, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) President Nawaz Sharif praised Zardari’s visit to Delhi and encouraged further efforts to improve bilateral relations.

Looking back over the past four years of democratic rule, Pakistanis are asking themselves what democracy has delivered. With the economy and internal security situation suffering from the effects of terrorism, it is a complicated question for many. A breakthrough on resolving longstanding differences with India, however, could lay the foundation for a new era of peace and prosperity in the region. That’s a success many long believed unachievable.

Supporting Democracy & Stability Key To Reducing Corruption

Transparency International makes headlines every year when they release their Corruption Perception Index.

The causes of official corruption are many – from historical roots that can be traced to the Mughal empire to the pervasiveness of petty bribery in daily life. Earlier this week, however, Transparency International identified one are of particular interest: political instability.

This is not an uncommon problem. A study of political corruption in Africa pointed to a situation that may be familiar.

From east to west, the pattern is drearily repetitive. Keep just enough at home to rig the next election/pay off the army/build a garish palace (complete with Olympic-sized swimming pool and helicopter on the lawn). Stow the rest in offshore bank accounts in Uncle Binzi’s name, buy flats in the most expensive districts of Brussels, Paris and London – the kids, after all, will need a base in between terms at Eton and Harrow – and set up a handful of offshore companies. Whatever you do, get the money out of the country and never bring it back.

Africa’s history of political instability has also played its part. Presidents who knew they could be overturned at any moment rushed to steal as much as they could in the time available to them. In Nigeria, the post-independence elite initially invested their new-found wealth domestically, only to see those assets appropriated by incoming administrations. The likes of the late General Sani Abacha, who sent an estimated $4bn abroad, were careful not to repeat the mistake. “The thinking is always: ‘I am certain to be probed once I leave power, so I had better put everything abroad’,” says a Nigerian banker.

It’s widely suspected that Gen. Musharraf’s London lifestyle is financed in part by funds siphoned from US aid to Pakistan. And he’s not the only former Pakistani leader to face exile, and not the only one accused of funding his exile with looted funds. Former Prime-Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto both lived in exile, and both suffered accusations of official corruption.

We learned from the diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks that Pakistan’s current president, Asif Ali Zardari, has asked the United Arab Emirates to allow his family to live there in the event of his death, an event he believes would not be accidental. His concerns are not without merit. A popular theme in the Pakistani media during 2009 was the “Minus One Formula” – an alleged plan by the military to remove Zardari from power.

In the US, we put our ex-Presidents to pasture on book tours and lecture circuits. Pakistan’s political leadership has historically faced less attractive options. Knowing the stakes, it would be irrational for Pakistani political leaders not to make decisions to ensure their self-preservation – decisions that may involve engaging in some level of official corruption as a means to establishing a foreign safety net in the event of a coup. That doesn’t make it right, but it does make it a reality.

All of this, of course, reinforces the need to support the democratic process as key to reducing corruption and the perception of corruption in Pakistan. Pakistani columnist Cyril Almeida writes for the English-language daily Dawn that Pakistan still lacks political stability and the threat of military intervention, while weakened, still looms in the background of Pakistan’s domestic politics. His solution – stabilizing the nation’s contentious democratic process.

Official corruption is not a problem unique to Pakistan. A recent BBC report claims that the entire world may be more corrupt than it was three years ago. Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, says the government considers corruption a form of terrorism, and is taking action to eliminate it throughout the government. Without the assurance of a stable democratic system, though, the temptation to engage in corruption as a means to create a safety net will endure. The US has many options when it comes to helping Pakistan eliminate corruption – the first should be working to ensure a stable and enduring democratic system. Without that foundation, progress will be hard to come by.

Greater Threat Than Floods: Pakistan's Judiciary?

The historic flooding that has ravaged Pakistan was considered for a brief period to be a grave threat to the country’s stability. Analysts were unsure if the young democratic government would be able to provide relief and reconstruction services enough to satisfy a panicking public. As the waters subsided, though, the civilian government demonstrated that it could work with the military and the international community to provide services to the people. Today, however, the government faces a possibly greater challenge: continued attacks from the nation’s judiciary.

Pakistan’s judiciary has been threatening to topple the democratically elected government in what many are calling a “coup by other means”. While unprecedented challenges to elected officials have been going on for some time, the courts appear to be determined to continue their attacks.

Since its December judgment striking down an amnesty that shielded President Asif Ali Zardari and other officials from old criminal allegations, the top court has pressed the government on corruption, in particular a dated money-laundering case against Zardari. The stakes have risen as repeated government delays have stoked frustration within the army and the political opposition. Another showdown is scheduled for Wednesday, when the court could hold the prime minister in contempt or indicate that it will reconsider Zardari’s presidential immunity from prosecution.

The standoff has cemented the Supreme Court’s position as a central player in Pakistan’s nascent democracy. But it has also highlighted questions about the solidity of that system.

The Army has largely stayed out of the affair, though as Ahmed Rashid writes for BBC, they would stand to gain the most should the courts succeed in overthrowing the government.

It would be a constitutional rather than a military coup, so that Western donors helping Pakistan with flood relief would not be unduly put off, but the army would gain even more influence if it were to happen.

The courts, for their part, are attacking the government from two flanks – the Supreme Court is threatening to disqualify President Asif Zardari more than two years since his election, and the Lahore High Court – headed by Chief Justice Khawaja Sharif, an ardent supporter of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) – has reinstated an old corruption conviction against Interior Minister Rehman Malik, despite his having been pardoned in May.

According to a growing number of voices in the legal community, the politicization of Pakistan’s courts is a growing problem that threatens the stability of the government and the legitimacy of the nation’s judiciary.

“This judge and the court have embarked upon politics,” said lawyer Khurram Latif Khosa, whose father, also a lawyer, advises Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani. “The lawyers who were chanting slogans in their favor are now burning effigies of their idols.”

Mr. Khosa is not alone in his analysis. His statement echoes the sentiments of Supreme Court advocate and human rights activist Asma Jahangir who wrote in December of last year:

While, the NRO can never be defended even on the plea of keeping the system intact, the Supreme Court judgment has wider political implications. It may not, in the long run, uproot corruption from Pakistan but will make the apex court highly controversial.

Witch-hunts, rather than the impartial administration of justice, will keep the public amused. The norms of justice will be judged by the level of humiliation meted out to the wrongdoers, rather than strengthening institutions capable of protecting the rights of the people.

There is no doubt that impunity for corruption and violence under the cover of politics and religion has demoralised the people, fragmented society and taken several lives. It needs to be addressed but through consistency, without applying different standards, and by scrupulously respecting the dichotomy of powers within statecraft. In this respect the fine lines of the judgment do not bode well.

The lawyers’ movement and indeed the judiciary itself has often lamented that the theory of separation of powers between the judiciary, the legislature and the executive has not been respected. The NRO judgment has disturbed the equilibrium by creating an imbalance in favour of the judiciary.

A few months later, Ms. Jahangir’s tone turned decidedly more dire.

People will soon witness a judicial dictatorship in the country if the judiciary continuously moves ahead in its present direction and then we would forget military and political dictatorships, HRCP chairperson Asma Jahangir said on Wednesday.

By April, even opposition politicians the PML-N were raising concerns that the courts were over-stepping their constitutional role to topple the government.

Raising concerns about the conspiracy, PML-N spokesman and senior leader Ahsan Iqbal has said that a third force wants a clash between the judiciary and parliament.

Iqbal did not name the third force precisely in the same fashion, as Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has repeatedly done in recent months, The News reports.

According to another PML-N leader, the Army is trying to pitch the judiciary against parliament and for this purpose it is using certain elements in the media.

Recently, Pakistan’s Chief Justice issued a statement condemning those who are speaking out against perceived judicial overreach.

Ironically, the Chief Justice who is leading this assault on the government, Iftikhar Chaudhry, was himself the victim of extra-constitutional removal by then President and Chief of Army Staff Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Justice Chaudhry was released from detention by Pakistan’s newly elected government in 2008, and reinstated to the Supreme Court in 2009.

Some believe that during the year between Justice Chaudhry’s release from detention and his reinstatement, the judge grew to resent the new government and has taken it upon himself to bring a myriad of legal challenges to its authority. In fact, many of the cases before the court were not brought by any individual or official agency, but were taken up “suo moto” – by the choosing of the Chief Justice, himself.

Regardless of what is motivating the incessant attacks by members of Pakistan’s judiciary, the right to decide the nation’s leadership rests solely with the people of Pakistan. Military generals, religious clerics, and judicial appointees all have a role to play in the success of the nation. But each must work within the bounds of the constitution and the democratic process. Whether led by the military, the Taliban, or an army in black robes, a coup is a coup – and any coup will be devastating to Pakistan’s future.

New York Times' Problematic Pakistan Coverage: Politicians and the "Tax Gap"

Pakistan's Tax Gap

Getting people to pay their taxes is a problem as old as taxes themselves. Even Jesus caused controversy by having dinner with Zacchaeus the tax collector – a hated man in his community. So it should probably come as no real surprise that Pakistan, like all nations, has a sizeable tax gap – the difference between taxes owed and taxes paid.

New York Times reporter Sabrina Tavernise puts the blame squarely on the politicians, saying that the nation’s dysfunctional tax system is “mostly because the politicians who make the rules are also the country’s richest citizens, and are skilled at finding ways to exempt themselves.”

That is an incorrect characterization.

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