Sharif ‘monopolizes’ power, cooling army

Sharif ‘monopolizes’ power, cooling army

Sharif ‘monopolizes’ power, cooling army

Sharif, incoming premier and leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, will oversee foreign and defense portfolios to work more closely with the army. REUTERS photo

Pakistan Prime Minister-elect Nawaz Sharif will oversee the sensitive foreign and defense portfolios as he seeks to forge a working partnership with the all-powerful military in the early days of his tenure, sources close to him said May 28.

Sharif, ousted in a military coup in 1999, has decided not to appoint defense and foreign ministers in the Cabinet he is putting together.

He led his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), back to power in May 11 elections. Instead, he will select a retired civil servant as an adviser on foreign affairs, Tariq Fatemi, a former ambassador to the United States and the European Union, the sources said.

The army has ruled Pakistan for more than half its history since partition with India in 1947 and critics say generals have jealously guarded the right to dictate foreign policy. The move to defer appointing a foreign minister suggests that Sharif wants to get to grips with the government’s relationship with the army. “The incoming government and the army need to be on the same page on key foreign policy issues, not least Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan, India and the United States,” a PML-N insider told Reuters, requesting anonymity. The United States wants ally Pakistan to help rein in the Afghan Taliban before most NATO combat troops pull out of Afghanistan in 2014. Pakistan’s arch rival, India, with which Pakistan has fought three wars since 1947, is constantly a perceived threat.

Pakistan is beset by high unemployment, a failing economy, widespread poverty, a Taliban insurgency and sectarian violence. The United States is troubled by elements in the country supporting Islamic militants fighting U.S. troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

‘No will to take risks’

“Supporting Western-backed attempts to engage with Taliban leaders in Afghanistan; what to do about India - until the government’s policy contours are crystal clear, the prime minister is not willing to take any risks,” the insider said. Sharif was a protégé of military dictator Gen. Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s.

But he was overthrown by Gen. Pervez Musharraf because he refused to allow an airliner carrying the army chief to land in Pakistan.

In the last days of his election campaign, Sharif spoke openly against what he called a “flawed” U.S. war on terror, raising questions about which direction he would try to push the trajectory of bilateral relations.

Taliban No 2 killed


A U.S. drone strike killed the number two of the Pakistan Taliban in the North Waziristan region yesterday.

The drone strike killed seven people, the Pakistani security officials said, including Taliban deputy commander Wali-ur-Rehman, in the first such attack since a May 11 general election in which the use of the unmanned aircraft was a major issue. Wali-ur-Rehman had been poised to succeed Hakimullah Mehsud as leader of the Pakistan Taliban. The Pakistani Taliban is a separate entity allied to the Afghan Taliban. Known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), they have launched attacks against the Pakistani military and civilians.

According to Britain’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism, CIA drone attacks targeting suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan have killed up to 3,587 people since 2004, including up to 884 civilians.