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CONTINUING from where he left off in the last days of the election campaign, prime minister-in-waiting Nawaz Sharif has said all the right things about the US, India and Afghanistan in interviews with the foreign media on Monday. Calling for a reset or improvement of ties with the US, India and Afghanistan, Mr Sharif took an encouragingly pragmatic and positive line on Pakistan’s key external relationships. Even when discussing the fraught issue of US drone strikes in Fata, Mr Sharif took a measured line, refusing to be drawn into jingoistic and bellicose rhetoric while under-lining the problems the strikes have created politically inside Pakistan. It is encouraging that Nawaz Sharif the incoming prime minister is speaking in much the same way as Nawaz Sharif the candidate spoke.

For all the positivity Mr Sharif’s comments have generated, however, there is still a very grey area in the PML-N’s policy framework: what, if anything, does the party intend to do about the domestic threat from militancy and extremism, particularly in the N-League’s Punjab electoral base? On Afghanistan, Mr Sharif’s suggestion that his government will help foreign powers draw down their forces will be a reassuring early signal to the outside world from the PML-N supremo. But the outside world will surely want to know about his plans to tackle the external and internal threat that militant groups operating on Pakistani soil still project. The US, India and Afghanistan have specific groups in mind who continue to be given space inside Pakistan, and increasingly in Punjab. Actions not words will be sought, and in the absence of action by the Pakistani state, tensions with the outside world could rise.

Framing the issue as predominantly an external concern, however, would be disingenuous. The PML-N’s links to, tolerance for and encouragement of Islamist organisations with militant wings has set up a problem that is potentially explosive: could those groups, who have avoided turning their violent attention on the PML-N so far, now expect more space for themselves in Punjab and the country’s trouble spots? While simply turning the state’s guns on militant Islamists embedded in Pakistan proper is no real solution, neither has the PML-N put forward anything that approaches a rational or acceptable approach to incrementally tamping down the militancy threat. As a conservative, popular, Punjabi leader, Mr Sharif has the credentials to take up the fight against terrorism — but those same credentials can also act as an impediment to action. The country needs clarity from Mr Sharif on these issues soon.

Comments (11) Closed

iqbal carrim May 16, 2013 05:31am
Ideally,any civil government confronted with any type of militancy should deal with it in accordance with the rule of law.At best,it should be the police and the judiciary and in difficult , extreme situations,the military,the police,and the judiciary,all under the executive.
Fahim Khan May 15, 2013 04:24pm
I doubt any clarity will be provided to the this country. Directions will flow from Washington to Riyadh to Lahore.
S.S.VERMA May 15, 2013 09:42am
Frankly Mr Sharif is making the noises that he thinks his audiences want to hear! Someone should tell him that the elections are over and he has to now mean what he says.
Iftikhar Husain May 15, 2013 11:25am
The editorial has rightly pointed out the problem the new prime minister is going to face on the on the subject of militancy. He must come out with a clear approach to deal with this urgent problem.
Ghalib Khan May 16, 2013 04:16am
If you study Taliban Mind Set , their is very little option for PML(N) Taliban always want to go for total dominance, and if Nawaz Sharif wants to rule this country for Five years he has to fight them, he has no other option, the question is will he, if not for Pakistan at least for himself.
NASAH (USA) May 15, 2013 03:43pm
Right now if the militants 'trust' some people they are Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan -- how long this 'trust' will last -- if the two leaders ask the Talibans to disarm - and stop blowing up girls schools and Shia masjids - is anybody's guess.
Farooq Khan May 15, 2013 12:59pm
I am of the view Mr Sharif has the potentials to deal with militants and make them accept the writ of state. Beside, he has some old links and well defined contacts with those who, now have become a threat for the country. Thus, on due time, he will disclose his policy regarding militants. In this regard he will distinguish, the Pakistani Taliban and those who belong to external side but using our land for terrorist activities.
Usman May 15, 2013 05:58am
After the elections? Shouldn't DAWN have been asking this question before the elections?
Fuzail Z. Ahmad May 15, 2013 10:02am
Excellent editorial, but I am afraid it will add more to the gap between the lower and upper income strata in Pakistan. Indications are strong that the upper income (middle income and above) have voted more for PTI than PML N. The lower class does not read Dawn and its excellent editorials.
NASAH (USA) May 15, 2013 07:54am
Between his domestic and international obligations -- I see only trouble for PM Nawaz Sharif from the militants in the future. Unless he has some formula to turn them into the unarmed model Pakistani citizen.
Aamir May 15, 2013 08:05am
that is a question of great concern and no clear line by PMLN so far