Dr Farooq Hassan
It is clear from the Western media reports one gets the clear feeling that PML-N Quaid Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif’s entry into power is about to occur. His stature seems so assured that hardly a day passes without someone important from abroad seeking time from him for an audience. This is quite different from his position back in February 2008 when I had travelled to Pakistan simultaneously with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee just before the then scheduled general elections of February 18, 2008.
The then leader of this delegation Senator Joe Biden, and now the vice president of the United States which also included Senator John Forbes Kerry, the current chief of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had a different agenda in that visit as then they just wanted to see him. It is clear that from the start when he was one of the major players of the national political horizon, Nawaz Sharif is now ‘favourite’ of the foreign analysts to lead the country.
He has been greatly helped in realising that exclusivity of status by the poor performance of the incumbent president. It is of significance to realise that in this period Pakistan itself has been made the target of highly focused attention by Washington in which it is considered that the continuity of the US interests in this region is in jeopardy. Two famous quotes of President Barack Hussein Obama are sufficient to emphasise this point. First the American president has said that “Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world” and secondly his emphasis that the Pakistani government now led by the PPP made a fundamental “mistake in entering into a deal” with the militants in the Swat valley.
The approval of Nizam-e-Adl Regulation by the federal government had provided an added impetus to the consolidation of the Swat peace deal. This deal came after more than a year of sporadic fighting in which the armed forces of the country made a heavy going. In addition the western media, far being convinced that the deal could have some beneficial aspects, instead dubbed it to be the abject failure of the administration. A paradoxical atmosphere of mistrust between security forces and the militants was given tremendous perhaps exaggerated coverage by the Western media making it the main cause through which a few extremist commanders of the Taliban, outside of Malakand Division, had emphasised on the expansion of the Taliban’s influence. The Taliban and the people of Malakand were being conditioned to believe that their ‘peace deal’ was under constant threat as the same media constantly condemned the Swat ‘peace deal’, mocked the idea of Islamic (Qazi) courts, and the media trial of the Nizam-e-Adl ordinance. It is this emerging scenario in which the thinkers of US foreign policy are apparently operating. After the commencement of recent operations by the Pakistan Army in that area which has resulted in the creation of more than a million refugees and about a 1000 militants dead, it is considered that Nawaz Sharif may now be the man Washington was looking for. Why? He has the capacity, it is argued, with his pro-Islamic credentials to somehow paddle through these troubled times that ensures that the army continues its vital demolition campaign against this militancy, keep the overall acceptability of the Western interest alive in the rest of the country and also is ‘reliable’.