Is there any reason to be surprised by Nawaz Sharif’s recent interview to Dawn, "admitting" the fact that the 10 terrorists who executed the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks were allowed to cross over to India by the Pakistani establishment?
For the Pakistani leadership at least, it didn't come as a surprise. They were all aware of it, all along.
It's understandable why Sharif suddenly realised that the moment of reckoning and admission of guilt was here. A three-time prime minister of that country who was never allowed a full tenure, Sharif has been pushed and punched hard enough to feel the wall behind his back. He is left with no other alternative but to lunge forward into his opponents and try clawing his way out through them.
Admission of guilt?
Sharif’s outburst, when viewed rationally, is neither a path-breaking revelation nor the first such statement by him or other political leaders of Pakistan.
On January 2, 2016, Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out a deadly attack on an airbase at Pathankot. In October 2016, the same newspaper, as the one that ran Nawaz Sharif’s recent interview, reported that Sharif, as the prime minister then, has warned the military not to shield selected militant groups. He had also instructed the authorities to conclude the Pathankot investigations and the Mumbai attack trial cases, speedily.
Nawaz’s apprehension then, was further isolation of Pakistan internationally on account of its stance on terror groups. Nawaz’s warning threw some light on the sinister world of the Pakistani deep state.
As far as the Pakistani military is concerned, the Jihadi connect has been its strategic strength in an asymmetric equation with India. But to accept the fact that it arms, trains and finances global terror networks will lead to an immediate slew of repercussions, from all over the world. It would also disallow all-weather friend – China – extending its protective envelope further.
Nadeem Nusrat, a Washington-based leader of Muttahida Qaumi Movement, recently stated, "The Pakistani soil has been used to plan and launch major terror attacks. The providers and facilitators of terror sanctuaries in Pakistan must be held accountable by the UN and all peace-loving nations."
Nawaz was removed a third time from office when the Supreme Court of Pakistan indicted him in the Panama Papers case. He was barred by the Supreme Court for a lifetime from holding a public office.
The judiciary in Pakistan has been known to be overtly influenced/covertly controlled by the army. Munir Malik, a former president of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association, says, “The judiciary has historically been the B team of the army with no moral credibility."
In Nawaz Sharif’s verdict they had pronounced him guilty in failing to be honest and trustworthy — rather vague logic for a lifetime away from public office.
The Pakistani politico-military establishment views the issue of Nawaz’s current outburst, gravely. The National Security Committee has already met and rejected Nawaz’s statements in entirety. PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and CM Shehbaz Sharif have also met Nawaz, surely having been prodded by the army chief.
The man who stands to gain the most with Nawaz out of the way is also the man who is making the most noises. Imran Khan, retired cricketer, aging playboy and leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, a political party that holds the reins of Khybar Pakhtunkhwa, was amongst the first ones off the mark. Known to be very close to the military, his ambition is to be the PM of Pakistan. The elections are slated later this year. The Pakistani press has not been too kind either. Legislators have equated his act with treason. Some elements have called for summary punishment.
While giving his interview to Dawn, Nawaz Sharif surely would have known that he stands alone in this battle. He has also referred to China and Russia as having warned Pakistan to shun terror groups. He surely has more evidence of Pakistan Army’s involvement with the terrorist establishments. He would also have enough information about ISI’s operations in both India and Afghanistan. Given his three truncated tenures as PM, he has been involved in Pakistan’s top leadership’s strategic decisions at the apex level for over two decades. There are obviously many more arrows in Nawaz’s quiver that could hurt the current leadership badly.
As such, Pakistan is an isolated state. It has been put on the grey list by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) based in Paris. In the International Court of Justice, it is fighting a case to hang a man it calls an Indian spy. The Americans have choked their financial pipelines. Pakistan's all-weather friend China has just given US $1-billion loan to ease its precarious foreign exchange reserves. Most of the provinces are restive. The terrorist groups are mainstreaming by opening political parties. Milli Muslim League floated by Hafiz Saeed is an example.
Even if the Pakistani ruling elite were to throttle the press, Nawaz Sharif will find enough means to dent the Pakistani leadership’s image in the days ahead. Some people have already expressed concern about his physical safety. It would be interesting to witness how both sides play their cards hereafter.
As of now, the deep state within Pakistan has faced a big setback.