Nawaz’s Ambitions Are Commendable But How Achievable Are they?

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Three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appears confident that he will return to power in the upcoming elections. Hence, he appears keen to avoid run-ins with the security establishments as in past stints in power.

In his speeches Nawaz emphasizes the need for civilian supremacy and behind doors he appear to be seeking guarantees from the military establishment that he will be able to run the country unhindered this time around. It is a carefully calculated power move.

As of now the omnipotent military establishment has no other options and Nawaz knows that so is leveraging the opportunity to push on issues that are important to him.

For example, he has repeatedly tested the waters by reiterating his demand for the accountability of those who ‘conspired’, in his view, to push him out of power in 2017. “Who ruined the country? Who brought the country to this point today? Why are the poor starving today? […] All these things are eating up the country.”

Another area where Nawaz appears to be seeking independence is ties with India. Nawaz defended his position on the Kargil issue, stressed the need to improve ties with India, recalled the visits of Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999 and Narendra Modi in 2015, rhetorically asking if anyone had come to Pakistan before them. “It was clear that the thrice-ousted prime minister was keen to assert himself from the outset this time around.”

As an editorial in Dawn noted, “It is encouraging to see that Nawaz Sharif remains committed to a strong civilian government and an independent foreign policy, and he is fully entitled, as a former chief executive, to pursue accountability and push the overreaching arms of the state back into their respective domains.”

However, Dawn cautioned the older Sharif that he “should perhaps not consider himself the ‘ideal’ candidate just yet. It is clear that he still has a weak understanding of the Pakistani economy, which seems heavily influenced by the thoroughly discredited ideas of Ishaq Dar. Therefore, while his ideas about civilian supremacy and assertive policymaking are commendable, until both he and his party figure out what good fiscal management entails, there is not much they can offer inflation-weary Pakistanis desperate for growth and meaningful change.”

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