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The challenges that Mr. Sharif will face
Mr. Sharif has a tough task ahead. He should be particularly concerned about the growing radicalization of Pakistani society on the sectarian and religious lines, about economy, drone attacks on Af-Pak border and a broader question of relationship with the US, about Kashmir and overall relationship with India, federalism, about Pakistani position on ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and about his stand on his opponents, particularly on Mr. Musharraf.

Nawaz Sharif is all set to become the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. This would again not be a very happy ride for him even though the likely threat to his future government from Pakistani military is practically zero. The reason has to do with the Pakistani state facing all kinds of problems on virtually all fronts. The fractured mandate and compulsion of coalition politics complicate the things further.

Let's consider the challenges that Sharif faces one by one. As far as radicalization of Pakistani society is concerned, Mr. Sharif can hardly offer any solution except to appeal to people to live peacefully and improve the performance of law enforcement agencies. It would be almost a miracle if Pakistani institutions take sect-neutral positions and Mr. Sharif should get credit for this once it is done. The inter-sectarian conflicts between majority Sunnis and minority Shias are dangerous to the stability of Pakistani society. Pakistan needs to understand that it is a fully Islamic country with minorities there being practically impotent, both numerically and in influence. What’s the point in fighting within when all can live peacefully?

The important point for the Pakistani majority is to understand that the more the glue among Muslims in Pakistan, the better it would be for every citizen there. The religious intolerance can be overcome if there is harmony among various sects. A person who believes in Allah, consider Mohammad as the last Prophet of Islam and Koran to be the Final Testament and observes full duties as enshrined under Islam, is a Muslims, be he a Sunni, a Shia, a Ahmadi or a Sufi. To be frank Mr. Sharif hands are tied in this regard. What he can do is to promote literacy of masses, promote English and highlight and support the rights of girls and females. The important argument is to cool down temperature a bit and then build up a more moderate Pakistan. But it would be better that he be a realistic person.

The biggest expectation of Pakistani public from Mr. Sharif would be his performance on economy front as he is one of the richest men in Pakistan and a matured politician as well. The Pakistani economy is practically flat with high inflation and high unemployment. Pakistani state is facing acute problem of power outages and infrastructure there is not up to the mark. Investors’ sentiment on Pakistan is negative. In order to fix the economy, Mr. Sharif needs to restore confidence in Pakistan among the investors but peace and stability in the nation are must preconditions for that.

The new Pakistani government needs to seek foreign direct investment both directly and through India. The state should issue tax-free infrastructure bonds and diversify its economy. There is nothing wrong in Pakistan thinking about competing with India but the level playing field has to be fair and equivalent. Mr. Sharif should invest maximum in higher education and create institutions to the requirements of the nation and the society. But yes, investment would come maximal from the US and it might put condition of cooperating in the future political game plan in Afghanistan.

This brings the discussion to the next challenge: the issue of drone attack and a broader relationship between Pakistan and the US. Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Sharif should be forthcoming. While Mr. Obama needs to understand Pakistani concerns that drone attack inside its territory not only increase resentment against the state and the US, they also contribute to increasing radicalization and extremism there. On his parts, Mr. Sharif needs to understand that US cannot offer aid and other helps without expecting something substantial in return. The fact is that al-Qaeda-Taliban combine has proliferated influence and its ideology both horizontally and vertically across the Islamic nations and would definitely dominate the Afghanistan political landscape in middle-to-long term after the withdrawal of American and other NATO troops. It is highly likely that Afghanistan would once again become the sanctuary for global jihadists.

So, there are legitimate US concerns about security and terrorism. It would be too much to expect from Mr. Sharif that he could change the Pakistani policy of supporting the long-term winners in Afghanistan. What Mr. Sharif can do is to persuade Pakistani military establishment about rethinking its strategy on Afghanistan and start supporting liberal groups as well. But in all likelihood, it is the Pakistani military which would call the shots in Afghanistan and about the drone attacks. In this regard it would be fair to advise Mr. Sharif to not poke his nose in choosing the successor to General Kayani. As far the US-Pakistan relations are concerned the present Obama administration would support transparency and fairness. Mr. Sharif needs to understand that vocalism is in vogue in the US these days. He cannot expect much from Mr. Obama on Kashmir.

As far as settling long-pending dispute over Kashmir is concerned this is not the right time in India as within a year India would have new Union government. Kashmir can be resolved if both sides agree to consider other’s claim and take an irreversible position that the dispute would be resolved peacefully through negotiation. Both sides need to be flexible in diluting somewhat their oft-stated positions. It requires mutuality and reciprocity from all sides to the dispute. If Kashmir dispute is left aside, an impossibility though, then Mr. Sharif is the best person in Pakistan to seek friendly relationship with India and any Prime Minister of India would reciprocate. But yes, the relationship between India and Pakistan should not be based on emotions, rather on ground realities as a single incident can have domino effect in the subcontinent.

As far as the issue of federalism is concerned Mr. Sharif needs to assert full commitment to the sovereignty of Pakistan. But he should be open to the issues of autonomy to various regions. The fact is that both Hindus and Muslims want increased autonomy but for different reasons. In India, regionalism is the basis of nationalism. In Pakistan, the temperatures are so high that sinks and distinctions are required. But Pakistan requires strong Central institutions with appropriate and proportional devolving powers among various constituents of Pakistani state. Pakistan requires sharing and caring with high economic performance to become a stable and peaceful state.

Pakistan government very often finds it difficult to take position on ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. Mr. Sharif should make it clear that Pakistan as a state does not support either violence or violations of human rights in Islamic societies. This should be true at least for distant Islamic societies. Simultaneously, Mr. Sharif should support the rule of majority all across the Middle East and the North Africa, be they Sunni-dominated or Shia-dominated, provided those majorities do not persecute and suppress their respective minorities. In Syria, Mr. Sharif needs to fully and explicitly support the rebels. Neutral positions on Sunni and Shia could improve the inter-sectarian positions in Pakistan even though measurable Saudi influence would be there in Pakistan.

The last challenge that Mr. Sharif faces is that he taking position on his opponents. Mr. Sharif should not have too much agony against either Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) as a political party or Mr. Musharraf as an individual. He should not support judicial activism against either of too and should take favorable position on both. Pardoning both does not make Mr. Sharif any lesser Muslim than what he is. Mr. Musharraf should be sent to exile again if the judiciary there in Pakistan puts this condition to clear him of charges that he is facing. Otherwise, Mr. Sharif would unnecessarily exacerbate his relations with the Pakistani army. Populism has a lot of meaning in this social media website-dominated world but Mr. Sharif should not ride on it. The best thing is that he remains conservative on internal matters and does not switch over to other side.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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