Written by Khaled Ahmed | Posted: October 25, 2014
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been to the UN and made his anti-India speech, which no one can object to. Reference to “disputed” Kashmir is not banned by a world community that routinely ignores it — this UN session was no different. But Sharif was actually addressing the other Sharif, the general who heads the Pakistan army.
Christine Fair, in her book, Fighting to the End (2014), writes: “The report of the Abbottabad Commission [on the death of Osama bin Laden]… observed that the civilian government [of Pakistan] did not evidence the slightest interest in exerting control over the nation’s defence policy and further quipped that the minister of defence did not object to being ‘an irrelevance’.”
Nawaz Sharif won the 2013 election riding a national consensus in favour of free trade with India. In 2012, “a nationally representative poll among a cross-section of more than 2,600 men and women showed that 67 per cent Pakistanis thought the country should trade with India”. This was found by Gallup Pakistan, which also estimated that “only 29 per cent of people were opposed to the idea of trade with India”.
The last time Nawaz Sharif won, in 1997, he first went along with the army — and a jingoist national consensus — to test a nuclear device in 1998. It was a defiant tit for tat aimed at India, which would go on to elevate its bomb-makers to the presidency. Then he thought he could get away with a bit of normalisation with India and had then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee come to Lahore and “accept Pakistan” by going to the Minar-e-Pakistan, the national monument to independence in Lahore. But the Vajpayee visit went wrong, Nawaz Sharif got deposed and had to spend nearly a decade in exile.