India is watching with concern as Pakistan’s army tightens its screws on power following the ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a soft coup orchestrated by the country’s generals using the judiciary.
The Joint Investigation Team that tabled a 254-page report earlier this month on the financial assets of Sharif’s family, included two members from military intelligence agencies. Pakistan’s military may not have played a direct role in disqualifying Sharif from public life over corruption charges, but the Supreme Court could not have passed its ruling on Friday without the military’s tacit approval.
Sharif wanted peace with India and he wished to strengthen democracy in Pakistan. The Pakistani military oppose peace and have sent terrorists to attack India’s army bases in Pathankot and Uri. They have thwarted democracy by not allowing Sharif to complete his term as prime minister on three different occasions now.
Sharif was not on good terms with his army chief, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and chief of Inter-State Intelligence, Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar, who wanted to remove him at all costs.
The military began to lose trust in Sharif after he attended Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in 2014. This was one of his rare visits to India. Modi later made a dramatic visit to Sharif’s home in Lahore to attend his granddaughter’s wedding in December 2015. This unscheduled meeting came as the final straw for Pakistan’s army. A week later, terrorists struck at the Indian Air Force station in Pathankot, Punjab.
Sharif’s exit comes at a time when India faces increased ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops and the Indian army is engaged in a standoff with China at the Doklam tri-junction.
Even if Sharif names his wife Kalsoom, or brother Shehbaz, as interim prime minister, the military may be virtually ruling the country until fresh elections, scheduled for the middle of next year. Even these may be postponed, however. India is worried about who it should talk to in Pakistan if the situation deteriorates on Kashmir’s line of control. Prospective India-Pakistan talks on the matter will be put into deep freeze if Pakistan’s military is running the administration.
Reactions to Sharif’s ouster are another matter of concern for India. Pakistani terror group Jamat-ud Dawah (JuD) welcomed the Supreme Court ruling. It had been blaming him for not doing enough to liberate Kashmir and for betraying the path of jihad. India will not be surprised if JuD chief, Hafiz Saeed – who is linked to 2008’s Mumbai terror attacks, 2006 Mumbai train bombings and 2001 Indian Parliament attack – is released from house arrest soon.
Former Pakistani president Gen Parvez Musharraf, now living in exile in London and facing treason charees back home, also hailed a “historic’ verdict. In 1999, when he was Defense Minister, Musharraf, without informing the then Prime Minister – Sharif – sent troops and militants to the mountains of Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir to wage war on India. Pakistan lost the Kargil war.
If elected as prime minister, the shrewd Khan may well decide to bat for the military so that they allow him to serve his full term
Imran Khan, the former Pakistani cricketer who leads the Tehreek-i-Insaf party, vigorously campaigned for Sharif’s downfall and also hailed the end of the “godfather’s” rule. His party is likely to win the general elections. If elected as prime minister, the shrewd Khan may well decide to bat for the military so that they allow him to serve his full term.
The reading in New Delhi is that Sharif’s exit will embolden Pakistan’s military to launch more attacks on India and push more terrorists into Kashmir. Over 200 ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops have been recorded over the past few months.
India has not officially reacted to Friday’s development in Pakistan. It appears to be on wait-and-watch mode.