Panama Papers verdict: Nawaz Sharif may have stepped down, but nothing has really changed in Pakistan

Even though Nawaz Sharif has resigned as prime minister, nothing has really changed in the Pakistani political set up.

Playing out scenarios of what things may come is a pointless exercise.

File image of Nawaz Sharif. AP

File image of Nawaz Sharif. AP

The very fact that Nawaz's successor will be his younger brother Shehbaz, who is clearly marking time until he is elected to the national Assembly,  indicates that when it comes to Pakistan, all is still very much in the family. This entire brouhaha is more of an ornamental fluff rather than a true changing of the guard.

For those that argue that the removal of Nawaz Sharif is indicative of the ascent of the Pakistan Army, I say thus: The Pakistani Army has no need to ascend or descend. It owns the elevator of power and can decide which floor to sit on and for how long as it selects Sharif's replacement.

If it was truly hostile to the Sharifs, the army would have just simply dismissed the clan and no one would have been able to lift a finger. Instead, Nawaz was eased out through legal means and allowed to remain in the tent.

Nawaz may find solace yet in his dismissal being delinked from charges of corruption. He may also display bewilderment at his unceremonious send-off but he knows in his heart that the deal was for him to take the fall — to put on a show for the public and cleanse the stables — while maintaining the status quo.

To the common Pakistani citizen, the Panama Papers revelations are no big deal. To a certain extent, corruption or a certain political expediency are integral to politics. Let's not read too much into it. There's been no major policy shift. If we applied the same yardstick to Indian politicians, swathes of leaders would be wiped out.

Interim Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is an old buddy of Nawaz. He is unlikely to create any drama in the few days he enjoys office. Like Banquo's ghost in Macbeth, Sharif's influence will be felt long after his "departure" from the stage. Much like Lalu Prasad Yadav handing over the reins to his wife Rabri Devi.

As for India expecting a sea change in relations with its neighbour, especially with reference to 600 terror camps maintained by Pakistan, that is wishful thinking indeed. Pakistan is enjoying India’s uneasy face-off with China. General Bajwa is unlikely to reduce the pressure by extending flowers and friendship. Expect no concessions.

On the contrary, a certain caution is called for. Governments often divert attention from domestic crises by creating incidents on the border. High-profile issues such as the Kulbhushan Jadav case and even heavy exchange of fire at LoC gives the "new" regime (which is actually the old regime: Shaken, not stirred) to consolidate its power and ride in on the enemy's coattails.

It would not be surprising if we see some contained adventurism in the coming days. Extra vigilance may be necessary.


Published Date: Jul 31, 2017 10:26 am | Updated Date: Jul 31, 2017 06:00 pm


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