Pakistan: from Nawaz Sharif to Shahbaz Sharif or Pakistan in the power of Sharifov

« Back

Pakistan: from Nawaz Sharif to Shahbaz Sharif or Pakistan in the power of Sharifov 07.08.2017 11:20



The Supreme Court of Pakistan on July 28, 2017 disqualified the Prime Minister, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. The decision was made on the basis of Article 62 (1) (f) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1973. The Supreme Court found him dishonest, and on that basis disqualified him as a member of the Majlis-i-Shura (parliament). The Supreme Court of Pakistan instructed the Electoral Commission to issue a notice to N. Sharif about the disqualification. The court ordered the President of the country M. Hussein to take action in accordance with the Constitution to continue the democratic process. The resignation of the head of the Cabinet meant its immediate dissolution.

The parliamentary opposition represented by the Justice Party (PJ, Tehreek-i Insaf) in 2015 launched an anti-corruption campaign against the acting prime minister. Imran Khan, leader of the PJ, threatened that he would paralyze Islamabad; organize a many-thousand sit-in strike in the event that an independent committee to investigate the legality of the offshore accounts of the family of the prime minister is not formed.

The response to the request of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2016 to the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca confirmed the offshore transactions of the N. Sharif family, which in the Pakistani media were called Panamogate. The PJ Party, together with the right-religious party Jamaat-i Islami (JI), sent another request to the country's Supreme Court to investigate the foreign assets of the head of the Cabinet. At the hearings on April 20, 2017, the court decided on the need for a deeper analysis and formation of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT). On July 28, 2017, based on the report prepared by the JIT, the Supreme Court ruled on the disqualification of the incumbent prime minister.

N. Sharif and his family members denied any violation of the law and did not recognize the legitimacy of the JIT report, thus challenging the country's judicial system. Recall that in 2007-2008 the lawyer community insisted on the reinstatement of the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, I. Chaudhry, dismissed at the request of General-President P. Musharraf.

Many in Pakistan are considering a two-year trial of Panamogate as a process aimed at the political destruction of the ruling clan.

N. Sharif, who in 2013 for the third time came to power (1990-1993, 1997-1999), for the third time did not complete a full five-year term. The decision of the Supreme Court of July 28, 2017 means not only the completion of his personal political career, but also jeopardizes the fate of the whole family and the Pakistan Muslim Nawaz party that he created back in the 1980’s.

Trying to stay in power, Nawaz Sharif named his successor younger brother Shahbaz Sharif, acting chief minister of the country's largest Punjab province. He has a chance to be elected to the post of prime minister, since most members of the lower house of parliament - the National Assembly of Pakistan belongs to the Pakistan Muslim Nawaz Party. But for this he must withdraw from the provincial assembly of the Punjab and successfully run for the National Assembly in mid-September 2017. In turn, Sh. Sharif, his successor as chief minister of the Punjab (the main social base of the Pakistan Muslim Nawaz Party) sees only his son Hamza Shahbaz. Not to lose the reins of government in 2017 and win in the parliamentary elections in May 2018 - the survival issue of the Sharifs’ clan.

From this perspective, the nomination by the Pakistan Muslim Nawaz party for the post of acting Prime Minister Shahid Hakan Abbasi, former oil minister of the previous government, should be considered.

In the crisis of 2017, the Sharifs found themselves in political isolation. In many respects it is connected with the power management style of Nawaz Sharif (in fact, he took revenge for years of removal from power in 1999-2013), which the Pakistani Senate characterized as the usurpation of power. And the upper house of parliament had a lot of work to insist on the reports of ministries and cabinet ministers on a regular basis. N. Sharif himself rarely appeared in the national parliament. The last time he attended the Panagomate trial in the spring of 2016.

In addition, Nawaz Sharif easily betrayed political allies. Thus, in the midst of the 2013 election campaign, in order to expand his own social base, he generously distributed promises, in particular Jamaat-i Islami, but did not fulfill them, creating an increasing number of political opponents. Nevertheless, the largest opposition group in the National Assembly (the lower house of parliament) - the Pakistan People's Party did not participate in the anti-corruption campaign, but did not support N. Sharif.

In the international arena Sharif also did not receive the expected support. The Persian Gulf monarchies, in particular the ruling clans of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who in the past traditionally patronized and financed the election campaigns of the Pakistan Muslim Nawaz Party, abandoned it in 2017.

In Pakistan, now there is no strong political party or figure capable of uniting the nation. Thus, Imran Khan, who spent two years of his parliamentary career fighting for the removal of Nawaz Sharif from power, running the Hyber Pahtunhwa province, has little influence both in the center and in the National Assembly of Pakistan.

In general, the political system of Pakistan has up to 300 registered parties, 18 of which are represented in the parliament. At the same time, the positions of the main parties - the Pakistan People's Party, the Justice Party, the Awami Muslim League, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid and Jamat-e-Islami - are so different, that they could not even agree on a single candidate for the post of acting prime minister.

Undoubtedly, the main political players of Pakistan in 2015-2017 observed the progress of the Panagomate process. Many of them were convinced of the stability of N. Sharif's positions and were not prepared for the verdict of the Supreme Court and, accordingly, for the new election campaign. This further weakened the ranks of the opposition in the national parliament.

In the Pakistani media there are articles about the ex-general-president P. Musharraf (1999-2008) with gratitude for the events of the last days. There are voices that the disqualification of N.Sharif is the general's response for the campaign of impeachment initiated by the Pakistan People's Party and the Pakistani Muslim party Nawaz. As a consequence, Pervez Musharraf was forced in August 2008 to resign as president of Pakistan.

Despite the statement by the press service of the federal army that there was no direct participation of the military establishment in the Panamogate trial, the Joint Investigation Team formed by the Supreme Court consisted of representatives of Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence. And the 253-page report prepared by the Joint Investigative Team formed the basis of the verdict of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. However, Pakistan is still dominated by the Sharifs, regardless of who leads it: Nawaz Sharif or Shahbaz Sharif.

Natalia Zamaraeva