Editorial

A bracing week for Nawaz Sharif

Even by the standards of Pakistan’s unpredictable polity, the week ahead for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could be tempestuous, as all his troubles threaten to come to a head together. Opposition leader Imran Khan has announced that on Monday he will go to court seeking clearance to stage a “shutdown” protest in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. He has also said that regardless of the outcome of the hearing, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf will go ahead with the protests starting Wednesday to force Mr. Sharif’s resignation over corruption allegations. Mr. Khan will be joined by several political groups and flanked by religious extremists of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council that include Hafiz Saeed, and the cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, with their combined followers estimated in the hundreds of thousands. The allegations of corruption pertain to the ‘Panama Papers’ that contained details of offshore companies and undeclared assets allegedly owned by Mr. Sharif’s family. On Tuesday, petitioners calling for Mr. Sharif to be disqualified from office are scheduled to be heard by a special bench of Pakistan’s Supreme Court. The Chief Justice, who heads that panel, has already passed several strictures against the government, and rejected its request for a commission to investigate the Panama disclosures instead. Meanwhile, Pakistan is in mourning for more than 60 people, most of them young police cadets, who were killed in a terrorist strike in Quetta, and a massive security operation is under way as Mr. Sharif attempts to refute criticism of his government’s National Action Plan after the attack.

These troubles come at a time when Mr. Sharif is expected to announce who Pakistan’s new army chief will be. While the possibility of General Raheel Sharif receiving an extension is not being ruled out, Mr. Sharif is reported to be considering other options too. His decision on what is effectively the most powerful office in the land will have a bearing on Pakistan’s strained civil-military relations. The rift between the government and the military is not new, but it seems to have been widening since the Uri attack and India’s announcement of surgical strikes in retaliation. Since then, crossfire at the LoC and the international border and an escalating diplomatic stand-off between the two countries have added to Mr. Sharif’s sense of siege. It hasn’t helped that he has done little to mend ties with the opposition. To the military, he has offered no resistance as it has steadily encroached on his power. Part of the reason is that the Panama Papers have rendered him vulnerable. But given the storm gathering around him, isolating himself may not be a viable option.

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Printable version | Sep 29, 2020 8:18:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/A-bracing-week-for-Nawaz-Sharif/article16084626.ece

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