Embarrassing, unfortunate

NOBODY expected a red-carpet rolled out to welcome Nawaz Sharif after his long absence from Pakistan, but General Musharraf’s extreme step of putting him on a plane and ‘returning’ him to Jeddah has raised eyebrows in the international community with good reason. Islamabad had been in clear disarray since the August 23 supreme court ruling allowing the Sharifs back to the homeland — reopening corruption cases and falling back on the Saudi/Harriri brokered deal — and overreacted upon Sharif’s arrival.

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Published: Tue 11 Sep 2007, 8:36 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 1:04 AM

Considering the highest court’s ruling, it was imprudent to seal off the airport, declare a terror alert and cordon off much of the capital before unceremoniously forcing the former premier back to where he spent most of his exile years. The EU has been quick to question the Pakistani government’s motives behind the hasty deportation, implying infringement of democratic norms in disregarding the ruling and not allowing Sharif to face court cases against him.

This sentiment is likely to echo across more international circles, putting the Pakistani government in an awkward position as presidential and general elections are due before the year is out. General Musharraf has boasted ‘free and fair democracy’ ever so often, buying time from a concerned West before deciding upon an opportune time to finally retire from the army. But he will find it difficult to keep up that act much longer. Sharif’s second exile and tripping negotiations with Benazir Bhutto mean he is still struggling to engineer a setup that the west won’t have too many problems with.

Now, should the country’s leading court hold the government’s highest offices in contempt, and the gesture find enough international agreement, General Musharraf will have only his own strong-arm tactics to blame. The recent chief justice ouster, too, owed to similar exercise of power.

As repeatedly argued in this space, Pakistan’s fractured democratic system requires healing, which in turn requires careful handling. As such, the time was ripe for inviting all principal political players to present themselves in the court of the people. When personal concerns overlap political imperatives, the worst comes the way of the people. Nawaz Sharif did not merit the unfortunate treatment meted out to him. In mishandling the affair, Pakistan’s highest offices have put a needless dent on its democratic outlook.



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