Berlin: Nawaz Sharif is set to form the new government in Pakistan. He was prime minister of the Islamic country twice in the 1990s. Experts hope to see a new Sharif this time when he sits in the PM office in Islamabad again.
Fourteen years ago, the Pakistani military ousted former PM Nawaz Sharif and later sent him to exile. But Sharif is now all set to return to power after winning the historic May 11 parliamentary elections.
Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League party (PML-N) defeated both the former ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and cricket star turned politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Some opinion polls were suggesting Khan to win the elections.
Khan, whose party has emerged as the second-strongest party in the elections, and won the most seats in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan.
“The results of the elections show that the voters have been extremely disappointed with the PPP government. They hold the PPP responsible for the economic and energy crises in the country,” Britta Petersen, head of the Heinrich Boell Foundation in Islamabad, told DW.
Sharif is most likely to become the prime minister of Pakistan again. It will be his third term as premier. He was prime minister from 1990 to 1993 and 1997 to 1999. Each time, Sharif could not complete his constitutional term. In 1992, he was sacked by the then president of Pakistan, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, over corruption allegations.
Eight years later, Sharif’s government was toppled in a military coup by General Pervez Musharraf. He returned to Pakistan in 2007 but could not participate in the 2008 general elections. His party, however, won the provincial elections in the central Punjab province and his brother Shahbaz Sharif became the province’s chief minister.
Experts say that Pakistan is facing enormous challenges and that it won’t be easy for the new government to deal with them. The nuclear-armed country is facing protracted Islamist insurgency. The economy is in a shambles. Around one-fifth of the population lives in extreme poverty.
“The fact that a single political party has got the majority indicates that the next Pakistani government will not be a weak one,” Mubashir Zaidi, a political analyst, told DW. “This will help Pakistan gain political and economic strength,” Zaidi said.
Experts say that Sharif is likely to continue with the liberal market policies and go for more privatization which might increase economic growth.
On the political front, Sharif is opposed to the military’s interference in politics. The Pakistani army has ruled the country for a combined total of over thirty years. The military has apparently stayed out of politics, ever since former military dictator Musharraf was impeached in 2008. But political experts say that military generals still call the shots in Pakistan and that Sharif may come into conflict with them once again.
Sharif has repeatedly stated that he would like to work with the US, but he has also expressed his opposition to US drones strikes against the Islamist militants in the northwestern tribal areas. Experts hope that Sharif will not go into direct confrontation with the US.
“Pakistan is economically dependent on the US, therefore, I do not expect major shifts in Sharif’s foreign policy in relation to the US,” Petersen said.
Relations with India
Sharif’s rise to power can be a good sign for Indo-Pakistani relations. Presently, trade relations between the two South Asian rivals are not too good, but this might change with Sharif.
“Sharif said in an interview with an Indian TV channel that he wants to improve relations with India,” Zaidi said, adding that this was “absolutely necessary” for the future of South Asia. He was also of the view that Pakistan should not waste time fighting with neighboring countries and that it should work on stabilizing itself.