It is not only his head, with transplanted hair against the bald one of the 90s, which gives Nawaz Sharif an improved look, but also the speeches, gestures and the confidence of the PML-N supremo demonstrate that he is now a different person from the one who entered the PM House in 1997 with an ambition to become an all-powerful ‘amirul momineen.’
Much water has flown under the bridge since Sharif was unceremoniously ousted from the power in 1999 and it seems that 14 years have not only made him older, but also wiser. His style of politicking now is clearly showing that he has learned much from past mistakes. No doubt, the real test will start when he will be dealing with the day-to-day affairs of the government, but so far he has played his cards well.
At the same time, it is not the same Pakistan Sharif had left behind in 1999. Today’s Pakistan is equipped with a vibrant media which is not ready to comprise its freedom even with a military dictator. And the world witnessed this when the media braved harsh restrictions imposed on it by Gen Musharraf during the lawyers’ movement for the restoration of judiciary.
Despite all of its ills, it is largely admitted that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government had been very tolerant of the media. For Sharif, who was used to another kind of media in the 90s, dealing with today’s pro-active media would be a big test.
Events of recent years in Pakistan witness that maturity has found some place for itself in the politics of this country. Though it came with a delay of about six decades, but at least now many in the power corridors have started to understand just how important a civilian-to-civilian transfer of power is for the future of this Islamic republic.
For Sharif the third term in power would be a great opportunity to move the country ahead. There is much to chide the PPP for its bad performance during the past five years, but it would be unjustified to deny the progress the country made on the legislative front during this period.
Now, all is set for Sharif to enter the PM House — for the third time. But, will he be able to deliver this time is a question with many question marks. One can hope betterment, but the topsy-turvy history of this country is full of many shattered hopes.
So far Sharif has proved himself to be a successful politician. Accepting in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) folds those fellows who had betrayed him after the military coup, taking sensible political decisions, such as not making weak election alliances and paving the way for Imran Khan’s PTI to form government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, devising a power-sharing formula for Balochistan and above all showing statesman-like confidence even in pre-election interviews indicate that Sharif has now established himself as a mature politician.
No one could expect such wise decisions from him in the 90s when most of the time of his two tenures as prime minister was full of confrontations.
By showing confidence in pre-elections consultations with the leaders of other political parties, especially nationalists from Sindh and Balochistan, he successfully made many to believe that he is going to form the next government.
Despite a very charged environment created as a result of anti-Sharifs campaigns both by the PTI and PPP, Sharif showed restraint and not using abusive language by him against any political opponent is on record. He even avoided reacting to Imran Khan’s rhetoric.
But, despite all the political skills and comfortable majority in the lower house of the parliament, for Sharif, the third term as prime minister would not be a smooth sailing because the country at present is abound with challenges of different kinds.
Among stiffest challenges are faltering economy, energy crisis, security threats, corruption and lawlessness.
Though the PML-N’s victory in May 11 elections has enthusiastically been welcomed by a sharp rise in the index of the Karachi stock market – one of the indicators of economic recovery – the challenges on economic front are far deeper and more profound.
For putting the economy back on track, the biggest challenge for Sharif’s economic managers would be to restore the confidence of investors because foreign investment in the country during the past five years has virtually crashed.
The investment environment of the country has a direct link with the security situation and Sharif would have to take many difficult decisions on this front.
The withdrawal of US-led international forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 would be a big event for the region and also a test for Sharif’s leadership. He needs to have a plan in his mind about how he would be able to protect Pakistan from any adverse impact from the possible political changes in its hostile western neighbour.
Eradication of corruption and ensuring good governance will not be easy tasks in the presence of a historically stubborn establishment which has never been as cooperative with political governments as it had been with military dictators – by Zafar Abbas Naqvi, Sub-Editor Dawn News Desk