Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nawaz Sharif: The Mediocrity Returns

In Dawn, The United States has commented publicly, and in very strong language, their dislike for Nawaz Sharif, who returned to Pakistan last week to stand for general elections in January 2008.

US President George W. Bush has gone public with his administration’s reservations about Nawaz Sharif’s commitment to the war on terror, saying the former prime minister’s relations with religious parties raised doubts about his ability to do so.

“I don’t know him well enough,” Mr Bush said in an interview to American news agency AP when asked to comment on Mr Sharif’s return. He, however, noted that Mr Sharif had good relations with Pakistan’s religious parties, which raised doubts about his commitment to battling the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

“I would be very concerned if there is any leader in Pakistan that didn’t understand the nature of the world in which we live today,” Mr Bush said. The comments prompted the US media, which had already been expressing similar doubts about Mr Sharif since his return to Pakistan, to look back at the Sharif era with suspicion and doubt.

Several mainstream US newspapers – Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Herald Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle – quoted senior US officials as saying that they worry Mr Sharif’s potential role in any new Pakistani government could undermine efforts to hunt down Al Qaeda and Taliban militants, as well as hinder broader initiatives to modernise Pakistan’s economy and society.

They cite Mr Sharif’s political alliance with Islamist parties and his past weaknesses in coordinating counterterrorism actions with the US when he served as prime minister in the late 1990s.
From what I’ve read about him, Sharif does not possess the sharpest of minds, and is easily bullied by his handlers. He’s also widely perceived to be Saudi Arabia’s boy. The Saudis, after all, offered him and his family sanctuary and luxurious accommodations in Jeddah. And when he returned to Pakistan it was on a private Saudi plane. Plus, Saudi Arabia has promised him resources for his election campaign, including the use of a helicopter. So it would be no surpris that Nawaz will do their bidding.

I can see why the United States is concerned; Nawaz Sharif would sue for peace with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and bring calm to the frontier. Sharif is also more willing to give religious parties what they want. In fact, before Sharif was overthrown, he made the decision to impose Sharia in Pakistan.

And let us not forget that Sharif attempted murder when he denied a PIA plane, which carried then Gen. Pervez Musharraf and 200 other passengers, from landing in Pakistan. The plane almost crashed for lack of fuel.

The man is simply bad news. I don’t know who’s worse: Bhutto or Sharif.