Jan Achakzai |
The Panama judgment was the red line for the ex-Prime Minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif (MNS), to cross by an institution, when it comes to civilian supremacy in Pakistan.
For him, the Panama leaks were never about corruption. It was a tool to be used for another political “engineering”: the ouster of an elected Prime Minister who clearly intended to put in “place” any institution that encroached on “civilian sphere”. The perception was that the elected government already lost space to the judiciary, the establishment, the media and the bureaucracy by incremental concessions before the Panama leaks came onto the surface.
What does MNS mean by civilian supremacy?
Mian Nawaz Sharif’s belief was (and is) that the constitution gives the Parliament supremacy over other institutions with the office of the elected Prime Minister to be the legitimate head of the civilian rule established through Parliamentary majority. His public narrative on GT Road was part of his political mindset and thought process he evolved over decades of hard experience.
Nawaz Sharif was made minus-one in 1999 hijacking case by the then judiciary with the award of 25 years imprisonment.
His government’s several dismissals through direct take over, or measures backed by institutions like the military, the judiciary and the bureaucracy, in the 1990s made him realize that civilian supremacy has to be accepted by all and sundry: in practice it means assertion of the rule of civilian leadership in internal and foreign policy issues.
Secondly, Mian Nawaz Sharif talked about “Grand Dialogue”. It may mean different things to different people. But one can easily decipher the underlying message of the dialogue was to engage in meaningful discussion with all stakeholders including the army, the judiciary and the political forces. Recently when CM Punjab Mian Shehbaz Sharif, called for a new “Contract involving dialogue with politicians, bureaucracy, and the generals”, it was more or less sending the same message but in a different way.
“If these forces are not happy with the constitution and separation of power formula under the existing scheme of things, what could be the alternative to destabilizing and the leg pulling of the elected government” as goes the thought process of Mian Nawaz Sharif.
A grand dialogue will likely address the concerns of these “restive” elements if put on the table.
This belief of Mian Nawaz Sharif grew stronger when a perception built in many circles that during his last tenure in office as PM, there was a systematic jockeying for “power grab” circumventing the constitutionally permissible paths implicating some elements of the other state institutions and political elite.
Contrasting all this with another school of thought led by Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan- a PML- stalwart- who believes that democracy and political forces are not strong enough to grab more space from other institutions after the 18th amendment when a new contract on provincial autonomy long resisted, was inked.
His public narrative on GT Road was part of his political mindset and thought process he evolved over decades of hard experience.
He believes political forces cannot set the course of the internal and foreign policy issues because it is for the military establishment to set the direction of strategic and operational directions of the country and because it has been doing so for decades. As a modus operandi, Chaudhry Nisar suggests to Mian Nawaz Sharif to quietly accept fait accompli (minus-Nawaz), even if required, lose the next elections but survive as a united party for another day in politics. However, he has an isolated viewpoint within the PML-N core group.
MNS’ ideology on foreign policy
Put this in the context of another pillar of Mian Nawaz Sharif’s ideology e,g. to resolve conflicts with neighbours to allow trade and connectivity. In other words, if these goals have to be achieved, the civilians have to decide what should be Pakistan’s “India policy” or “Afghan policy”.
When CM Punjab Mian Shehbaz Sharif, called for a new “Contract involving dialogue with politicians, bureaucracy, and the generals”, it was more or less sending the same message but in a different way.
For now the overwhelming majority of PML-N believes, without Mian Nawaz Sharif, there is no vote bank and no leader within the party exists to give them any victory in future elections. For the party, electables, workers and voters, minus-one is not an option.
Read more: Is Nawaz Sharif really an Ideology?
If memory is anything, Nawaz Sharif was made minus-one in 1999 hijacking case by the then judiciary with the award of 25 years imprisonment. However, after almost a decade in political wilderness, Nawaz Sharif staged a comeback.
For many political observers, minus-one and minus-Sharif family is only possible in political evolution taking the leaf from Indian examples: Gandhi and Nehru dynasties fading into oblivion.
Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst, a party leader in the ruling PML-N party, and advisor to Balochistan Government on media and strategic communication. He remained associated BBC World Service in London covering South and West Asia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.