Accountability
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Samson Simon Sharaf |

The leadership behavior of Nawaz Sharif in his tenures as a minister in various capacities is a study in profile from infancy to a shrewd politician. It reflects his desires and manifestations, though incongruent on a time continuum, yet providing a window for insights into his character.

His style from a civil defense volunteer, one always walking in shadows of Gen Zia and Jilani, finance/chief minister of Punjab, an aggressive opposition leader, to three tenures as prime minister is a study of contrasting styles. In these four decades, he has undergone different stages of metamorphosis, though not genetics.

Post-Zia coup, Pakistan’s military was eager to project a public figure that could erase the charisma of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the perceptions of the public. They wished to manufacture a new breed of leaders who would reflect aspirations of the military constituency.

Having been groomed in the shadows of a very strong and patronizing military-intelligence establishment for over 25 years, the recent seventeen testify his Houdini act where he has come into his self. Self-interests and not the interests of the country make him controversial.

In the past fifteen years, he has espoused everything he stood against in his prior 25 years. Yesterday’s disappointing meeting with his party members, his treatment of them as schoolboys and his ninety-minute speech on his cognitions of development economics reflect a personality hell-bent on his way or no way. Kashmir, which he labored to make a rightist cause stands abandoned. The military is his Achilles heel.

Read more: The Sadiqs and Ameens

Post-Zia coup, Pakistan’s military was eager to project a public figure that could erase the charisma of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the perceptions of the public. They wished to manufacture a new breed of leaders who would reflect aspirations of the military constituency. The Sharif family had been in the close focus of Major General Jilani serving in ISI.

In due course, they were drafted into the plans. Ittefaq Foundry had Rupees four hundred million bad debts written off and handed over to the Sharifs along with an unprecedented and preferential grant of Rupees four hundred million. This was the only case of its time. The prime witness Lt. Gen Saeed Qadir is still alive.

Being a great supporter of USA, he also began to question Bhutto’s relations with Russia in 1971 when USSR was providing military support to India against Pakistan. In his perception (he could be right) the entire 1971 fiasco was a Russian sponsored activity in which Bhutto played a pawn.

Jilani, another victim of his professional incompetence, lived with a perception that feudal politics was the curse and cause of instability in Pakistan. As head of ISI, he strongly felt that the military needed its own courtiers. Despite being close to Bhutto and as some suggest that man who recommended the 7th seeded Lt Gen Zia ul Haq to be made the COAS, he watched in awe how Bhutto, in contrast to his populist, politics began to co-opt the feudal politicians into his party.

Being a great supporter of USA, he also began to question Bhutto’s relations with Russia in 1971 when USSR was providing military support to India against Pakistan. In his perception (he could be right) the entire 1971 fiasco was a Russian sponsored activity in which Bhutto played a pawn.

Shimla diverted the Kashmir issue to bilateralism and interventions of United Nations trickled to nothingness. As governor of Punjab, he felt that Pakistan needed a new leader who would be groomed by the military and would hold Kashmir close to the heart.

Read more: A moral judgment?

The Sharif clan was not only Kashmiri but also a hardworking family that had made a fortune in Pakistan. Hence between the elder Sharif and governor Jilani, Nawaz Sharif was handpicked to become this new leader. They were rags to riches middle-class industrialist; anti-Bhutto; anti-feudal; and most, Nawaz Sharif, a malleable personality that fit the description.

Rigging in these elections in favor of IJI and against anti-military politicians was widespread. However, with the departure of Gen Aslam Beg and Gen Hameed Gul, Nawaz Sharif lost his support.

In 1981, Jilani made Nawaz Sharif the finance minister of Punjab, a springboard he would use to eventually become the prime minister. Thus was created a new and most enduring political dynasty of Pakistan, that is now at odds with its founders and raisons des etres.

Elected as Punjab Chief Minister in 1988, Nawaz Sharif acted a bully of the military establishment under General Aslam Beg. As Chief Minister, he gave a tough time to Benazir Bhutto. He also rallied a young team of well-groomed and chosen ministers (in mentorship during Jelani’s time) later to become his core team. In 1990, IJI, a right wing, pro-military, Kashmir hardliners emerged as the single largest political alliance with 105 seats in the national assembly. Incidentally, the same year that Kashmir resistance began.

Read more: End of Charter of Democracy?

Rigging in these elections in favor of IJI and against anti-military politicians was widespread. However, with the departure of Gen Aslam Beg and Gen Hameed Gul, Nawaz Sharif lost his support. Rather than be subdued by Ghulam Ishaq Khan, elements edged him to confront. President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed his government on charges that were turned down by the judiciary.

His strong opposition to Benazir Bhutto in 1988 and 1996 had established his credentials as a pro-military, pro-Kashmir, anti-Bhutto, anti-feudal and anti-bureaucracy politician. 1990 and 1993 elections were funded by the intelligence establishment. (Refer Mehran Bank Scandal). With very strong support from the establishment, Nawaz Sharif secured a landslide victory in 1996 with a 2/3rd majority.

The Lahore lad had come a long way from his mentorship by Zia-Jilani to sweep Pakistan with his green. But as events were to prove, to the chagrin of the military-intelligence establishment, the unchecked majority made Nawaz Sharif a nightmare. His ire fell beyond Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari onto the Judiciary, COAS Jahangir Karamat, President Leghari and the intelligence establishment. He was willing and did chop off the hands that once fed him. In the quest to fulfill his desires he was willing to concede on Pakistan’s fundamental premises i.e. relations with India and Kashmir.

In view of KJW Craik, a noted psychologist and one of the earliest practitioners of cognitive science, aversion, lack of attention and socialisation could lead to, ‘a form of adaptation by narrowing and distorting the environment until one’s conduct appears adequate to it, rather than by altering one’s conduct and enlarging one’s knowledge, till one can cope with the larger and real environment. 

Post-1996 politics show a changed Nawaz Sharif.  He had evolved from a submissive errand boy to an aggressive politician, intolerant of suggestions, dissent, and opposition. This new demeanor is in contrast and contradiction to his pen picture prepared by the establishment from 1977-1996.

His newly acquired aggressive and obstinate style makes him inelastic and inflexible. Though it appears paradoxical, in psychology this behavior fits the profile and progression of such people. It is two sides of the same coin. A combination of fear, frustrations, and desires in the early life of dependency turn to rigidity, aggression against competitors, aversion to people, disobedience and socialization within a select group of courtiers.

In view of KJW Craik, a noted psychologist and one of the earliest practitioners of cognitive science, aversion, lack of attention and socialisation could lead to, ‘a form of adaptation by narrowing and distorting the environment until one’s conduct appears adequate to it, rather than by altering one’s conduct and enlarging one’s knowledge, till one can cope with the larger and real environment.

Read more: Countering Sharif’s apologists

This is how Nawaz Sharif has evolved. According to Craik and Norman Dixon, this ultimately becomes the exaggerated and neurotic conduct of an individual to have his self-confidence reassured every moment by fresh praise and new successes, something on lines of Obsessive Compulsive Symptoms.

People such as these have flawed leadership priorities where images formatted in infancy keep reappearing in perceptions and therefore repetitions that make them feel secure, admired and worshipped. The military-intelligence establishment that once provided the toddler the maternal care and security is no more relevant to his grandiose delusions. He has a team that cheers him on and others, like some liberals, would join him as long as he befriends India, keeps the military in check and forgets Kashmir.

There are any instances where his trade, industrial and economic policies hurt Pakistan and benefitted India. Agriculture the backbone of Pakistan’s economy, the pharmaceutical industry once the pride of the country, soya lobby in poultry against Pakistan’s indigenous canola and deletion programs are but to name a few. Though he closed the IMF programs, the pile of domestic debt and externally borrowed money is expanding exponentially.

He used the SAFMA platform, to disown the Two Nation Theory and almost put Kashmir into the background. He made friends with Indian political and Industrial establishments, began the Lahore Bus Yatra, was too eager to own Pathankot and used the failed Turk Coup to bash the military through his mouthpieces.

There are any instances where his trade, industrial and economic policies hurt Pakistan and benefitted India. Agriculture the backbone of Pakistan’s economy, the pharmaceutical industry once the pride of the country, soya lobby in poultry against Pakistan’s indigenous canola and deletion programs are but to name a few. Though he closed the IMF programs, the pile of domestic debt and externally borrowed money is expanding exponentially.

Read more: Nawaz’s disqualification: Will Pakistan descend into chaos?

His dream of motorways, interchanges, flyovers, metro buses and orange trains is insatiable as long as they serve his dreams of grandeur. He knows that most political parties have no option but to back him. He will live his life as long as he can rally this team.

The writer is a political economist and a television anchorperson. This article was first published in The Nation and has been republished here with his permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

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