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Mumbai attack comments: What future holds for Nawaz Sharif after his Anti-Pakistan statements

The recent controversial anti-Pakistan statements by the 3 times ousted PM, Nawaz Sharif, have shocked and hurt the sentiments of every Pakistani. They have been sensationalized and rampant across Indian media screens and newspapers. Important questions are being raised behind his intentions, and whether he consulted the top leadership of his party while passing such clumsy statements? Most importantly what is left of his future in Pakistan?

Mumbai attack
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News Analysis |

Ousted Prime Minister and former head of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has made some ‘irresponsible’ and ‘controversial’ remarks on Mumbai attacks. In an exclusive interview to daily Dawn’s Cyril Almeida that appeared on Saturday, Sharif blamed Pakistan for ‘allowing’ terrorists to kill 150 people in Mumbai. “Militant organizations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?” angry Nawaz asserted.

Sharif was alluding to the 2008 Mumbai attacks when more than 150 people were killed and more than 300 were wounded. Indian media and authorities immediately blamed Pakistan for the brutal attack. Lashkar-e-Taiba, a banned terrorist organization, was held responsible for a series of 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting four days across Mumbai. Pakistan agreed to cooperate with India in order to reach logical conclusion of the case.

Moreover, while commenting on foreign policy of Pakistan the former premier took a tough stance and expressed his anger and displeasure. “We have isolated ourselves. Despite giving sacrifices, our narrative is not being accepted. Afghanistan’s narrative is being accepted, but ours is not. We must look into it,” he said.

NSC meeting will help us further understanding the significance and role of Nawaz Sharif in future political process of Pakistan. Nawaz’s presence in Pakistan’s political discourse is, at the moment, largely controversial and a little more insignificant.

Nawaz Sharif was referring to the recent media campaigns led by Indian and western media against Pakistan to isolate it. Pakistan has been under the constant pressure of the United States to follow the policy of ‘do more’ in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s former defense minister had declined to ‘do more’, and asked the US to do more now.

Read more: Nawaz Sharif may create the perception of winning public front, but…

The reaction of Indian Media

Within a few moments of the interview being published, Indian media was rampant with a campaign to spread what Nawaz had said. Much of it in the light of media sensationalizing.

“Pakistani terrorists carried out 26/11 Mumbai attacks, admits former PM Nawaz Sharif,” read the headline on Hindustan Times.

“Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has tacitly admitted in an interview that Pakistan played a role in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks,” wrote The Times of India.

Times Now went a step further about “Nawaz Sharif’s sensational confession”, saying: “Now, Pakistan can’t rid of 26/11 stain”.

Khaleej Times wrote, “Militants from Pakistan attacked Mumbai, claims ex-PM Sharif”.  These headings helped Indian media, establishment and political elite to reaffirm their stance on Mumbai attacks. Since India has, unlike Pakistan, many English TV channels and online publications to attract international audience and sell their narrative, an interesting anti-Pakistan narrative just got strengthened across the world just in a while.

Read more: Nawaz Sharif uses botched attack on Ahsan Iqbal to his advantage

Reaction of PML-N

Initially, the party leaders remained silent and tried to avoid commenting on the controversial statements by the ousted PM. Later on, the former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan addressed media and responded to Sharif’s statements. Nisar stated that “India used the Mumbai attacks for its own despicable plans”.

He also blamed India for showing aggression and refusing to cooperate during the investigation into the case. “The lack of cooperation by India was the biggest hurdle in the investigation. India wasn’t interested in a transparent investigation,” he said.

Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?” angry Nawaz asserted. Sharif was alluding to the 2008 Mumbai attacks when more than 150 people were killed and more than 300 were wounded.

Nisar also pointed it out that Indian authorities repeatedly denied access to FIA to question the only living proof of the attacks: Ajmal Kasab. This shows, said Nisar, India was never serious in taking the case to its end.

Later on, PML-N officially said that the statement issued by the party “Quaid” has been “grossly misinterpreted” by the Indian media. It was also mentioned that Nawaz, a patriotic Pakistan, did not need anyone’s certificate to prove his love for Pakistan.

Read more: Reviewing Asghar Khan case is damaging for Nawaz Sharif only

The reaction of Opposition parties in Pakistan

Nawaz Sharif’s comments on Mumbai attacks gave his political opponent a reason to bash him. PTI’s chief Imran Khan said in a tweet,” Nawaz Sharif is the modern-day Mir Jafar, who collaborated with the British to enslave his nation for personal gains. Nawaz speaking Modi’s language against Pak State simply to protect his ill-gotten Rs 300b stashed in his sons companies abroad.”

He further said that “today NS stands exposed before the nation. To try & protect his wrongdoings he is not only willing to destroy all Pak State institutions, including army, NAB, SC, but also the future of our country”.

Khan also asked an interesting question in his last tweet, “the big question is: Why, when he was in power for over 4 yrs, & his puppet is still holding power today, he did not speak out and take action?”

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Sherry Rehman on Sunday slammed Sharif for his irresponsible comments. Addressing a press conference PPP leader said that “PPP rejects Nawaz Sharif’s statement and stance [on Mumbai attacks]. She further questioned Sharif, Is he [Nawaz] an analyst that he’s giving out such statements?”

“Why didn’t Nawaz also say that Pakistan tried [very] hard to cooperate with India in the Mumbai trials? He is simply backing Modi’s [stance],” she continued.

While praising the role of armed forces in war on terror PPP leader also said that “Pakistan is fighting the war against terrorism alone. Our Armed Forces, [the nation] have given [countless] sacrifices in the war against terrorism,” she lamented. “Terrorism is a global issue, not just one country’s. PPP will fight for Pakistan’s case.”

Read more: Chaudhry Nisar demands pay raise but Nawaz Sharif has gone bankrupt

NSC meeting to be held Today

A meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) has been scheduled for Monday on the army’s “suggestion” to discuss the “recent misleading media statement regarding Bombay incident”, said Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Sunday.

In a message on Twitter, the DG ISPR said: “NSC meeting suggested to Prime Minister [Shahid Khaqan Abbasi] to discuss recent misleading media statement regarding Bombay incident. Being held tomorrow morning.”

Mumbai attacks; Conspiracy Theories and Indian Narrative

There are a number of conspiracy theories and a well-furnished anti-Pakistan narrative to explain the causes behind Mumbai attacks. Conspiracy theorists get attention when they focus on explaining events on the basis of their ‘utility’ and ‘outcomes’, not only on superficial levels. If Mumbai attacks and their causes and masterminds are to be understood and identified, there needs to be asked a fundamental question; who benefits?

In the wake of Mumbai attacks, argues Elias Davidsson, India managed to get some advantages/outcomes it wished for. Pakistan, on the other hand, paid a heavy price and is still paying.  “Mumbai terrorism benefitted Indian institutions (Defense budget hiked by 21% immediately) and helped India, US, UK, and Israel come together and strengthened right-wing Hindutva politics in India makes lots of historical sense,” wrote Dr. Moeed Pirzada while making references from Elias Davidsson’s book, The Betrayal of India: Revisiting the 26/11 Evidence.

Pakistan earned a bad name, was blamed by India, bashed by international community and snubbed by the United States of America. As a matter of fact, why would Pakistan do something which damages her image and credibility? In the age of dominant media war and narratives, anything which does not conform to the norms set by global and regional hegemons is called a conspiracy theory. So is the explanation of Davidsson’s of Mumbai attacks these days.

Read more: After Hudaibya case, Nawaz Sharif again under NAB’s radar for money-laundering

Nawaz Sharif’s Political Future after Alleged anti-Pakistan Comments

Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Safdar have been making anti-judiciary and anti-establishment remarks since his disqualification in Panamagate scandal by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Nawaz’s anti-institutions approach was not welcomed by many senior PML-N leaders, including the present head of the PML-N Shehbaz Sharif. Sources reveal that Nawaz has been asked by his younger brother to step aside for the moment so that things get settled in a peaceful way. But Nawaz who fears that he will lose all his significance and influence he possesses at the moment once he gets aside is reluctant to allow PML-N work without him.

Nisar also pointed it out that Indian authorities repeatedly denied access to FIA to question the only living proof of the attacks: Ajmal Kasab. This shows, said Nisar, India was never serious in taking the case to its end.

Nawaz Sharif who alleges the judiciary for taking orders from ‘top’, allegedly from military establishment of Pakistan is now bashing the state of Pakistan for his personal political survival. Nawaz’s comments on Mumbai attacks are a message to India and the US that he (Nawaz) believes in civilian supremacy, follows what the US and India ask him, and opposes armed forces of Pakistan. He believes this rhetoric will make him a favorable candidate for the US and India, to be elected as a prime minister in Pakistan yet again.

Read more: Thank you Nawaz Sharif for showing your real colors

However, media and opposition parties have made it difficult for Nawaz to excel in a situation when many of PML-N leaders do not want him to stay in. Nawaz’s anti-Pakistan comments have hurt every patriotic citizen and soldier of Pakistan. It is hoped that the NSC will recommend an independent inquiry to probe into the matter; why has Nawaz Sharif made these comments? Were his party’s top leadership taken into confidence before the controversial interview? What will be the implications of Nawaz’s comments for Pakistan at an international level?

NSC meeting will help us further understanding the significance and role of Nawaz Sharif in future political process of Pakistan. Nawaz’s presence in Pakistan’s political discourse is, at the moment, largely controversial and a little more insignificant.


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