The relatively peaceful transition of power following general elections in Pakistan is a positive development for Pakistan and the region. The stability of one more democratic country in this part of the world is an added value for the entire region and should be applauded. Nawaz Sharif has been sworn in for the third time as Pakistan’s prime minister and Pakistanis are hoping that he will fulfill the campaign promises he made during the campaign. Sharif promised to improve the economy and law and order and end shortages of electricity and drone attacks in the tribal areas by the United States.
These are the high priority issues and hopefully he will be working on them as soon as he assumes office. Besides addressing these domestic problems, improving Pakistan’s tattered image on the international stage is another challenging issue for him and his administration. In the last 15 years the world has witnessed a number of embarrassing blunders, from the Kargil War to denying Osama bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. The Pakistani military and the ISI have also been accused of supporting and using the Taliban and other similar groups for undermining the stability of Afghanistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahedeen for engineering terrorist attacks in India. Unfortunately, the previous civilian government was unable to initiate any major shift in the tracks set forth by Pervez Musharraf.
In his first effort to restore Pakistan’s eminence, Nawaz Sharif confirmed his determination to improve India-Pakistan relations and restrain from military interference in the country’s internal administration and external affairs. His audacious attitude was apparent in his conversation with an Indian TV reporter when he said that he will visit India whether India invites him or not. He added that according to the constitution, the prime minister’s role is not to manage the military. These statements corroborate his willingness to make serious efforts to focus on getting Pakistan’s economy back up and running and improve India-Pakistan relations as he did before Pervez Musharraf ousted him in a coup.
There is not any question about Nawaz Sharif’s seriousness and intentions to address the country’s important issues and he may have a team of well qualified and capable advisors on his side that could help him mitigate, if not eliminate, the problem he has inherited from previous regimes. But the fact is that without the cooperation of Pakistan’s military and the ISI, his intentions to resolve Pakistan’s internal problems and improve India-Pakistan relations is unworkable. Looking at the history of his relationship with Pakistan’s military, there is slim chance of support and cooperation from these two powerful institutions. As a matter of fact, signs of their disgruntlement are already in the air.
Less than a month after Nawaz Sharif was sworn in, commotion began for the newly elected government. There are reports of a number of cease-fire violations on the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan and increased terrorist activities in the Indian states of Jammu & Kashmir. The latest violation was the fifth occurrence in June. A day before India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Jammu & Kashmir, two militants of Hizbul Mujahedeen, a Kashmir-based extremist group supported by the Pakistani-based, Lashkar-e-Taiba, attacked a convoy of Indian soldiers and killed eight and wounded 13.
Events like these, challenging each other’s authorities by words and action, are certainly unproductive and it reveals a clear discord between the civilian government and Pakistan’s military. Both, the government and the military must reconsider being adversarial and calm their rhetoric and focus on solving Pakistan’s problems over the next five years. The new government should focus on improving governance, the rule of law and clamp down on corruption at all levels and the military should restrain itself from working independently and offer support to the civilian government in shaping progressive economic and foreign policies. The recent election has given both the military and civilian leadership a brilliant opportunity for a fresh beginning and the opportunity to end a very tiresome bitter rivalry.
It will be inequitable to hold only two parties, the government and military, responsible for Pakistan’s problems. There are some other players such as the ISI, the Pakistan Taliban and a number of extremist groups who are also equally responsible for creating the disturbance in Pakistan. They all could refrain from their negative activities for the next five years.
Pakistan is a great cricket playing country and every Pakistani understands the language of cricket. In cricket runs come if a batsman remains on the wicket. Similarly, peace comes when everyone cooperates. If the government, the military, the ISI and all other extremist groups follow cricketer’s attitude and support each other like teammates they can score a decent success for their country.