Nawaz Sharif to take on foreign, defence portfolios himself: Sources

Nawaz intends to select a retired civil servant as an adviser on foreign affairs, according to PML-N sources.

Reuters May 28, 2013
Nawaz Sharif speaks to his party workers during a seminar in Lahore, to mark the 14th anniversary of Pakistan's first successful nuclear test in 1999, May 28, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS

Prime Minister-elect Nawaz Sharif will personally oversee the sensitive foreign and defence portfolios as he seeks to forge a working partnership with the all-powerful military in the early days of his tenure, sources close to him said on Tuesday.

Nawaz has decided not to appoint defence and foreign ministers in the cabinet he is putting together after having led his party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), back to power in the May 11 elections.

Instead, the two time prime minister will select a retired civil servant as an adviser on foreign affairs - former ambassador to the United States and the European Union Tariq Fatemi, the sources said.

The move to defer appointing a foreign minister suggests that Nawaz wants to get to grips with the government's relationship with the army.

"The incoming government and the army need to be on the same page on key foreign policy issues, not least Pakistan's relations with Afghanistan, India and the United States," a PML-N insider told Reuters, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media about the issue.

The United States wants ally Pakistan to help rein in the Afghan Taliban before most Nato combat troops pull out of Afghanistan in 2014. India, with which Pakistan has fought three wars since 1947, is constantly a perceived threat.

Pakistan is beset by high unemployment, a flailing economy, widespread poverty compounded by a Taliban insurgency and deadly sectarian violence.

"Supporting Western-backed attempts to engage with Taliban leaders in Afghanistan; what to do about India - until the government's policy contours are crystal clear, the prime minister is not willing to take any risks," the insider said.

Nawaz was a protege of military dictator General Ziaul Haq in the 1980s. But in 1999, when Nawaz was a prime minister, he was overthrown by General (retd) Pervez Musharraf because he refused to allow an airliner carrying the army chief to land in Pakistan.

In the last days of his election campaign, Nawaz spoke openly against what he called a "flawed" US war on terror, raising questions about which direction he would try to push the trajectory of bilateral relations.

Pakistan backed the Taliban's rise to power in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s and is seen as a crucial gatekeeper in attempts by the US and Afghan governments to reach out to insurgent leaders who fled to Pakistan after the group's 2001 ousting.

"Handling the US, Afghanistan and India after foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan will be a very tough job," another PML-N source said.

"Right now, Sharif has decided he's the best man to do this delicate dance. He won't take the chance of someone else making a mess in the early days of his government."


k. Salim Jahangir | 11 years ago | Reply

@Fact........No one any where has said that COAS is appointed by the Ministry of Defense.Three names of senior most Lt.Generals are recommended by the retiring COAS & one of them is appointed by the PM.The summary,however, is moved through MOD.

Rex Minor | 11 years ago | Reply One would have thought that he would change his autocratic style of Government after his previous expeience and a prolonged deliberations? What he is going to do when his perfomance in one or other office? Fire himself? Perhaps he is thinking of appointing someone after he has overcome his initial reservations in the two areas of defense and forign affairs He has first 100 days!. Rex Minor
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