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From rhetoric to delivery

Updated May 17, 2013 04:14pm


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My last vision of Mian Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan was inside a Karachi courtroom in April 2000 when Judge Rehmat Hussain Jaffri sentenced him to 25 years in prison for hijacking and terrorism. In a few months, my term as a correspondent in Pakistan ended and I left the country.

With some of Mr. Sharif’s family members sobbing in court, I remember it as a sombre scene. Days before the verdict, like many other foreign correspondents, I feared that the military regime of General Pervez Musharraf may have a worse fate than a long jail sentence in mind for him.

Luckily, those fears proved to be unfounded and after some help from the Saudi Arabian government, Mr. Sharif flew out of the country as part of a “deal” with the military authorities.

Six years later, in 2006, I ran into Pakistan’s prime minister-in-waiting in a Paris hotel lobby. Initially, I wasn’t quite sure whether it was Mr. Sharif or not, but soon it became clear that it was him.

Mr. Sharif now had a full crop of hair, was relaxed and confident as he chatted with me and a few other reporters travelling with Indian Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who encountered each other in the hotel lift.

During our conversation, he wanted to know what had come out from India’s interactions with General Pervez Musharraf, who is now, ironically, jailed in his own house outside Islamabad as Mr. Sharif prepares to take power as Pakistan’s Prime Minister for the third time.

The last time I met Mr. Sharif in person was five years ago, in his sprawling house in Raiwind. He was cool, composed and relaxed. It was as if the man knew he was going to return to power. But he had to be patient.

About the nuclear tests of 1998, he told me on their tenth anniversary: “The credit for our detonations goes to India. India actually made Pakistan a nuclear power. It turned Pakistan nuclear. Both the blame and the credit goes to India (laughs).”

By any yardstick, Mr. Sharif’s life-story would be classified as a fairytale.

Twice prime minister, then imprisoned, exiled, then returned to the country and now won his third election and en route to become Prime Minister again. No small achievement. It’s going to be a challenging job for Mian Sahab.

The issues are many and pressing. Unlike his previous tenures, an unrelenting media gaze, especially from Pakistan’s myriad television channels, is going to remain on Mr. Sharif and the decisions he takes and doesn’t take.

Equally, the judiciary that feels empowered and invigorated will keep the government on a short leash. The untrammelled power he sought to enjoy on previous occasions may just prove to be out of reach.

The Army, with which Mr. Sharif has had a tough time during his previous two tenures, is likely to get a new chief later this year. Just as the Army will have to be careful in dealing with the new Prime Minister, Mr. Sharif will have to reciprocate when it comes to working with the Army.

The prime minister-to-be will also have to deal with Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party and the fact that he’s been responsible for mobilising categories of Pakistanis, who previously felt that the act of voting would change nothing in their country.

The 60 per cent of the 85-million voters who turned out on May 11, braving bullets and bombs from the Taliban, have reposed their faith in the democratic process. It’s a feat that must be applauded.

Mr. Sharif will be conscious of his Punjab-heavy mandate and required to act like an all-province leader if he is to carry credibility in other parts of the country.

In the past, being boss-at-any-cost has proved to be Mian Sahab’s undoing. One can only hope and pray that things will be different this time round.

When it comes to India, the issues are framed. Mr. Sharif has always spoken of wanting good relations with India. His comments about picking up from the Lahore Declaration are welcome. Let’s hope India and Pakistan can find the traction to push their ties ahead.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been warm in his message of congratulations to Mr. Sharif:

This historic election is also significant victory for democracy in Pakistan. The people of India have watched with admiration the people of Pakistan braving violence and strife and turning out in large numbers to affirm their democratic rights. The Pakistani people and the political parties in Pakistan deserve all credit for strengthening the framework of democracy in their country by participating in these elections despite facing enormous challenges.

The people of India also welcome your publicly articulated commitment to a relationship between India and Pakistan that is defined by peace, friendship and cooperation. I look forward to working with you and your government to chart a new course and pursue a new destiny in the relations between our countries. I would also like to extend an invitation to you to visit India at a mutually convenient time.

In Pakistan, in India, and in India-Pakistan, let’s pray our leaders can move from rhetoric to delivery.


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Amit Baruah is an independent, Delhi-based journalist. He is the author of Dateline Islamabad and reported for The Hindu newspaper from Pakistan. He tweets @abaruah64.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (25) Closed

Ashish Tuteja May 14, 2013 08:53am
Off topic, but god blesses humans, humanity, and not a nation.
SHAHID IQBAL May 14, 2013 07:35am
Make no mistake. People of Pakistan will wipe out Nawaz Sharif in next elections if he could not perform. He better get to work immediately or he will end up like PPP.
Zahid May 14, 2013 02:04pm
Don't be so narrow minded and request His mercy to be limited.
F.Abassi May 13, 2013 08:13pm
engineered victory
Ashish Tuteja May 13, 2013 10:34am
More than a victory for PML-N, its a victory of citizens of the country and democracy. All citizens and political parties should take credit for a successful polling and transfer of governments.
Zack Khan May 14, 2013 08:41pm
Nawaz or Zardari, if there is any difference its about opprtunity. One availed more than the other. Shame on both of them.
Zaheer May 13, 2013 12:11pm
From rhetoric to delivery - sadly we will have to wait another 5 years to find out. But believe me, don't expect anything. It is going to be status quo, except for some slapdash cosmetic make up of Punjab.
Muhammad Awais May 13, 2013 12:13pm
Pti supporters are still thinking that by doing the protests they can change the results but this is over. now you have the govt in KPK do your best Khan and show us that you are able to run the Pakistan.
G.A. May 13, 2013 12:16pm
As long as Imran Khan is able mobilise people and threatens to gnaw at Mr. Sharif's vote bank, there is hope that Sharif would deliver. Imran Khan has been spared the agony of taking oath from Zardari. Mr. Sharif was not that lucky.
Muhammad Awais May 13, 2013 12:17pm
PTI supporters are still thinking that by doing the protests they can change the results but this is over. Now you have the government in KPK do your best Khan and show us that you are able to run the Pakistan
Ashish Tuteja May 13, 2013 01:14pm
I wish the same to Imran. Although disappointed that PTI couldn't get majority, but I feel governing KPK would be more than taking baby steps, and gradually preparing himself for the next polling session, hopefully after five years only. In any case, I congratulate the citizens for 'DEMOCRATICALLY' electing a government.
hyderphd74 May 13, 2013 04:18pm
Shame on the Pakistani voters. By electing Nawaz Shareef you have endorsed the view that you are not fit for democracy. When a country can not differentiate good from bad, it has no right to democracy !!
Nauman May 13, 2013 04:25pm
The other scenario is that Imran Khan will too become like the Sharifs and Zardaris in due course since in his party he hired some people from the old corrupt brigade who will only be too happy to show him how things are actually done the 'corrupt' way.
saqib May 13, 2013 07:20pm
Nawaz Sharif will ruin Pakistan. He will do nothing for the environment of education. Imran is the winner and the votes should be re cast in all the rigged constituencies.
KKhan May 13, 2013 08:49pm
A constructive and positive opposition by Imran Khan will drive the Govt. in power to deliver the good. Successful Democracy requires a powerful opposition which Imran is capable to delivering.
syed May 13, 2013 09:22pm
lets see if imran delivers in kpk ,lets see if he develops hydel power resources which are huge in kpk, god bless pakistan and nobody else.
pakistani May 13, 2013 11:56pm
Where and how does one lodge complaint of massive rigging, vote hijacking, and other such electoral fraud? Kindly guide your readers. I was denied the right to vote as my vote was hijacked. My permanent and only address is in Lahore, yet my vote was hijacked to Landhi, Karachi (NA-252) where it was also cast for MQM candidate against my will. Will I get the right to vote or will the ethnic terrorists vote on my behalf?
Shaukat Basit May 14, 2013 01:16am
Yes, Abbasi,engineered by the PEOPLE.
Tumare Iqbal May 14, 2013 01:28am
He will crumble under the pressure. Pakistan needed a statesman not a mumbling idiot. I'm happy though let the Noora's dance in the streets a little while longer until reality will slap them in the face. He is already talking about taking yet another IMF loan. LOL pakistanis this is gonna be a demolition.
Nitish Chakravarty May 14, 2013 04:49am
Amit Baruah's perception of the relationship of reciprocity he expects Mian Nawaz Sharif to forge with Pakistan's military establishment is highly significant. Used to ruling the roost over much of the time Pakistan has existed as an independent country, the military, especially the army leadership, is unlikely to reconcile tamely to their come-uppance.
iqbal carrim May 14, 2013 06:42am
First and foremost is the issue of terror. It can be best addressed by the law of the land through a zero tolerance approach and on an individual basis.
Rehan May 14, 2013 11:27am
They all need psychiatric counselling.
Israr Khan Ismail Zai May 14, 2013 02:15pm
That looked more like by "America" or PML N. How could the two parties that were neck to neck in most polls could be so far apart, think about it.
FR May 15, 2013 04:56am
Honest people are welcomed in pakistan, I say you deserve someone corrupt and impotent like Nooora
FR May 15, 2013 04:57am
yes people in ECP, Army and polling staff plus police and private guards