It was a delicate moment for the PML-N chief, Mr Nawaz Sharif, when he met the outgoing US ambassador, Cameron Munter, doing his farewell rounds. He had to say something that would go down well with his right-wing vote bank, sworn to enmity of the US and straining at the least against the reopening of the Nato supply route. So he said, “The US should reorient its policies towards Pakistan in a manner that the country’s democratic institutions become stronger and its economy made less dependent on foreign aid”.
He also called upon Washington to pursue a policy of mutual respect and trust with Pakistan because only such a policy “could restore cooperation between the two countries and serve the cause of peace and stability in the region”. At least in the press reports, he avoided bringing up the ghairat question with regard to drones and the Nato route, in the same way it was being allowed by the ruling PPP and ostensibly also by the military. Mr Munter, on the other hand, practised routine verbiage: he was “full of admiration for the people of Pakistan and said that he is deeply impressed by the enormous changes taking place, which made him confident that the country is headed in the right direction”.
What else can one say during a farewell call? But Mr Sharif, more or less, repeated what President Asif Ali Zardari has been telling the Americans: give us trade openings instead of aid. In a way, this would be better because aid is to be audited by thousands of American bureaucrats who find faults — sometimes justifiably — in the way we spend American money. A country with a corruption index as high as Pakistan’s is better off trading. But America is protectionist, believe it or not, compared with wide-open China and will not let go of the leverage of aid so that it can mould the behaviour of the army that controls policy in Pakistan. Pakistan’s economic crisis may have forced it to pocket its ghairat and allow the Nato route to reopen without any major conditionalities.
The PML-N is close to Pakistan’s right-wing army in its thinking. It is unfortunate that it had a bad moment with General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, who overthrew it after a period of struggle for superiority. The army reacted when Mr Sharif tried to pick favourites within a force that agreed with his worldview. It was he who increased the wallop of the army not only in Pakistan but in the region and the world by testing Pakistan’s nuclear device in 1998, defying US President Bill Clinton, who had tried to stop him. Later, when General Musharraf, as his own chosen army chief, botched the Kargil operation, he had to go and ask Clinton to get a ‘victorious’ India to simmer down. The PML-N chief is a bit of a statesman too, relying on ambiguity to avoid ruffling too many feathers in foreign policy.
Is the PML-N anti-America? In domestic policy, it has to haul the rival PPP over the coals for being a ‘slave of America’. The argument officially is: stop going with a begging bowl to America, which doesn’t care for you and is a friend of India. It knows that Imran Khan is hitting the campaign trail with an aggressive anti-American line to snatch its right-wing votes. So it is unavoidable for the PML-N to get a rasping Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to bash America in the National Assembly. But Mr Sharif has many sides to him. He doesn’t want to spoil relations with the US because it would make his association with his friends in Saudi Arabia difficult. He may criticise the PPP’s India policy but deep down, he knows he is the only leader in Pakistan who will finally normalise ties with India — to the chagrin of the army.
Mr Sharif can’t be unaware of the need to practise flexibility of approach towards the US, which can work on him through the UK where he is vulnerable. He is a practical man and can be relied on to make a transition from his current aggressive rhetoric to a mildness that will suit Pakistan in extreme economic distress. All said and done, between him and President Zardari, there is not much room for manoeuvre as far as the US and its powerful allies in Europe are concerned.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2012.
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We don't need Nawaz Sharif's pathetic advice or that of any Pakistani politician for that matter. Fix your own provinces' problems and then MAYBE you can give out your opinions.
Why the needless bashing by PTI trolls ??? Have some sense, know what you are talking about.
There is nothing objectionable in what NS has said.
Zardari or Nawaz same side of the corrupt democratic coin. Dictatorship prior to it has failed too.
America should listen when leader like Nawaz sharif suggest. Better for all of us..
why bashing nawaz sharif just because every body is doing so.can some one come with some solid points as a base for criticism.i hope there are not enough points against nawaz sharif to reject him as a good leader.in my view he has done ballanced politics in last four years.and he has lot of good things to his credit to qualify as savior for pakistan if given free hand.
"believe it or not, compared with wide-open China.........."
then why pakistan not asking for trade concessions with CHINA, One of the biggest markets in terms of poppulation.
In Nawaz they got a friend, since the people of Pakistan have dumped this genius and he is still available for a job, no an important assignment, I recommend that the Government of the United States should hire him as an expert advisor to all and sundry. This way, we finally get rid of this perpetual pain in the neck and you got yourself "wisdom" bank available instantly and he has access to the American realstate business. We all can be happy now and ever after.
All Armies of the World are Right Wing Armies. Stop malighning our forces in every writing and in every aspect. Obviously, the editorial lacks maturity of thoughts.
"Strengthen democratic institutions" that's fine. But USA uses the aid as a means of influencing the behavior of countries. A country that is less dependent on aid requires less financial maintenance from their perspective. But it also is a country that is less prone to influence. What would USA stand to gain from reducing Pakistan's or for that matter any country's dependance on foreign aid? That is something the country, in this Pakistan, should strive for itself?
You seem to betray an unequally favorable attitude to America. Try a little more balance.
America needs advice from Sharif like a fish needs bicycle. Mr. Sharif have you taken a trip lately; it is too hot in Pakistan?
So when PML-N states the bleeding obvious to the Americans, that's NS showing his different 'sides'. But when Imran Khan says it like it is (which is not right-wing by the way), that's American bashing.
Tell me one original policy that Nawaza Sharif has thought of himself and pushed for. He is a nobody with no education.
PMLN only barks on Zardari,, America is a real tiger and shere e qaleen is no match for the real beast
Poor America does neet lot of advise from the likes of Sharif. BTW, Sharif is still completing his 10 years of not taking part in elections not to annoy the King and the generals. When would we start minding our own business and stop dreaming of being a super power?