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Who Will Hold The Reins Of Pakistan After Nawaz Sharif’s Disqualification In Panama Papers Case?

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2:07 pm 28 Jul, 2017

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The Supreme Court of Pakistan today disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in connection with the Panama Papers case.

The embattled Prime Minister has been facing both legal and political opposition ever since the massive leak of the Panama Papers in 2016 which named his sons and daughters among those holding offshore assets.

 

Nawaz Sharif has been the Prime Minister of Pakistan since June 5, 2013 till his disqualification on July 28, 2017.

A five-judge bench ordered Pakistan’s National Accountability Board to file a case against the Sharif family within six weeks.

All five judges agreed to the disqualification and filing of case against Sharif. The verdict had been reserved on July 21. The Supreme Court also disqualified Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and registration of a case against him.

 

Sharif has failed to complete his term a third time. Pakistani media is unclear on who would succeed Sharif though some names have been put forward. The next general elections are scheduled for 2018.

Ever since the Panama Papers leak, the 67-year-old Sharif has been on the receiving end of political backlash, especially from his most powerful rival Imran Khan, who heads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Following the verdict, Khan reportedly offered prayers at Bani Gala.

 

Supporters of Imran Khan at a rally against Nawaz Sharif. Newscom

Twitter went into overdrive over this huge development in a country where political turmoil is a norm and which has been under military rule for 33 years ever since Pakistan gained independence.

 

The big question now is: Who will replace Sharif?

Speculation in Pakistani media before the outcome of this case was that the country’s defense minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif would become the stand-in PM. He is the same man who had threatened to nuke India while speaking at the United Nations.


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Pakistani defense minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif. tribune

Asif would be PM for 45 days till Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chooses someone else, who could be Sharif’s brother Shahbaz Sharif, who is also the Chief Minister of Punjab, or wife Kalsoom Nawaz Sharif.

But things in Pakistan are not how they appear. The powerful military is the de facto head of the country and runs the show from behind the curtains.

Ever since the Panama Papers leak happened, Sharif’s relationship with the military establishment continued on a downward trajectory. Though Sharif did try to play by the military rules by raking up the Kashmir issue and hailing Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani, there were clear indications that things were not good.

 

A picture of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani is held up during a rally condemning the violence in Kashmir, in Islamabad. Caren Firouz

In October 2016, Pakistani daily Dawn had reported of a rift in the military and Sharif government. Following the leak of the information to the press, Sharif sacked then Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed.

In April 2017, Sharif sacked Syed Tariq Fatemi, special assistant to the prime minister on foreign affairs. That did not go down well with the military and they issued a statement on Twitter rejecting the PM’s decision. (Yes, in Pakistan any decision by the PM, especially concerning foreign and defense, can be rejected by the army.)

 

Nawaz Sharif with Pakistani army chief General Aseem Bajwa. Twitter/PML-N

It was clear that things were not well between Sharif and the powerful military, which in 1999 ousted him in a coup led by then Army chief Pervez Musharraf.

In fact, many have pointed out that this judgement by the Supreme Court in Pakistan has a lot to do with the military.

 

This particular thread written by Marvi Sirmed, the special correspondent of Pakistan’s, points to the machinations that may have been played in Pakistan to oust Sharif on the pretext of Panama Papers.

 

And this comes from another Pakistani journalist:

Only idiots would say that Pakistan is a democratic country and hail the Pakistan Supreme Court verdict as a victory of law.

The fact remains that Pakistan is a land where democracy is a sham. Islamic fundamentalists run riot in the country attacking anyone from the minority communities, forcibly converting them or even raping their women.

Then there are the terrorist chiefs who are hailed as freedom fighters by the mullahs in Pakistan just because of their mutual hate for India.

The few genuinely secular voices who protest such atrocities are often ‘picked up’ by the military as was seen in the case of Salman Haider’s disappearance.

Should India be concerned about what happened in Pakistan? Very much.

The military, as is being speculated, will strategically place someone who listens to the army bosses. This will ensure that whatever nefarious actions they do, such as sponsoring and backing terrorists to target both India and Afghanistan, continue uninterrupted.

 

LeT chief Hafiz Saeed is one of the most prominent faces of terror who lives freely in the country. Reuters

Not that the Pakistani military has not been targetting India; there have been regular attacks by terrorists sponsored by the ISI. The Pathankot terror attack was the biggest proof that the Pakistani military will continue to work against any betterment of ties between the respective political establishments of India and Pakistan.

The attack came just days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Sharif at a wedding. That incident was seen positively by many, but not the Pakistani military.

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