As Prime Minister-designate Muhammad Nawaz Sharif prepares to take oath as Prime Minister of Pakistan there is a growing sense of visible positivity in the air, not only inside Pakistan but also among the world community and the millions of Pakistanis living overseas.
They feel encouraged to see that, despite the various conspiracy theories being peddled by certain quarters, Pakistan has moved steadily towards a democratic transition, where the change in government has taken place through an electoral process and not under the proverbial Khaki shadows. For a country that has spent the larger portion of its existence under dictatorship this, in itself, is a major accomplishment. Essentially, this was the first time in over 60 years of our history that “the people of Pakistan” were finally empowered.
They were empowered not only to choose their own leaders for the next five years, but also to show the door to the government that failed to meet their expectations.
It is even more encouraging to see that the people have chosen wisely and sensibly. Instead of falling for the empty rhetoric and sloganeering for spurious change, they have voted maturely and prudently by giving an overwhelming mandate to the most experienced, accomplished, and capable leader Pakistan has to offer. Nawaz Sharif has a proven track record of good governance, and it was his vision that was being executed by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif that made the government of Punjab standout in the rest of Pakistan.
According to independent observers Pakistan needed an experienced statesman like Nawaz Sharif at this important juncture in its history. A leader who can steer the country out of the critical challenges that it faces both domestically and on the international front, and this is precisely why the world community has so warmly welcomed him. They feel relieved and optimistic at this positive and democratic change of government in Pakistan. Relieved because an experienced leader familiar with intricacies of statecraft and governance will be taking over the reins of government in Pakistan; and optimistic because they are confident that the new government led by Nawaz Sharif will be competent, transparent, and dedicated to public service with a clear roadmap to deliver to the masses.
Perhaps, this also explains the unprecedented messages and phone calls by world leaders like President Obama, David Cameron, European leaders, Rulers of the Gulf States, Presidents and Prime Ministers from neighboring countries as well as the very special meeting with the visiting Chinese premier even before Nawaz Sharif has taken oath as Prime Minister. This also speaks volumes about the respect, admiration and goodwill that Nawaz Sharif enjoys across the world, and sources close to the power corridors in world capitals and Pakistan are reporting intense diplomatic activity in the coming days. They speak of scores of invitations, meeting requests, official visits, delegations to and from important world capitals and Pakistan. The vibes are exceedingly positive. Foreign policy experts both inside and outside Pakistan are of the view that this extraordinarily warm response from the world community to the new prime minister creates a very positive opportunity that will usher in a new era for Pakistan’s foreign relations with the world.
Nawaz Sharif has been in government more than once, and has been in politics for decades. Therefore, he clearly understands that Pakistan’s progress is linked to its peaceful coexistence with its neighbors. In this context India and Afghanistan are vital and will remain his top priority. We already know that there are very positive signals coming out of New Delhi. There has already been a contact between him and the Indian prime minister and observers on both sides are very hopeful of getting the peace process back on track and having a summit level meeting sooner than later. Nawaz Sharif has an excellent track record when it comes to India Pakistan relations and once again this gives him a clear advantage.
Similarly, Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan are also poised to improve under Nawaz Sharif because of the immense respect and goodwill that he enjoys in the region. In my opinion these two relationships (India and Afghanistan) would be critical not only for regional stability but also for Pakistan’s own security situation. Once again, Nawaz Sharif’s skill, experience and goodwill in the region would be his biggest strengths in making substantive progress in both fronts.
Security and Economic uplift are closely linked and as an experienced statesman Nawaz Sharif understands this glaring reality. In this context, things are looking positive too. The welcome from Gulf States has been visibly evident. He is widely respected not just in Saudi Arabia, but also among other GCC states who are all eager and keen to work closely with Pakistan. Reports of major investments coming into Pakistan from Gulf states are already pouring in, and this is likely to grow with the passage of time, and I know that there are elaborate plans in place to expand and enhance the business, trade and commerce relations between Pakistan and the GCC as well as Central Asian States which are likely to give the much needed boost to the country’s struggling economy. Moreover, the experience gained by PML-N’s government in Punjab in working closely with Turkey, China and some other states on infrastructure development, and with United Kingdom, Germany and other EU states in capacity building which was previously limited to Punjab will now be moved to much larger scale as the party forms federal government. This will give a further boost to Pakistan’s economic outlook.
This brings us to the all-important Pakistan-US relationship, the strategic dialogue between both countries is an excellent framework of collaboration, and must be moved forward. However a number of contentious issues such as drone attacks, the OBL saga, Raymond Davis [and a few other issues] have resulted in a certain amount of trust deficit on both sides. Once again, the change in government presents an excellent opportunity for both sides to take stock of this relationship, and make a fresh start. President Obama’s phone call and the number of meetings between US Ambassador Richard Olson and Prime Minister-designate Nawaz Sharif are all signs of the willingness of the United States to take the relationship forward in a positive manner. Observers on both sides are of the view that in the greater national interests of both countries to look ahead. As remaining stuck in the past is not the most prudent approach. Pakistan US relations have must have a forward-looking relationship that evolves with the ground realities as they present themselves. I have said this before, and will say this again that Pakistan and US need to focus on building a positive partnership. A partnership that promises hope, opportunity and goodwill on both sides; a partnership that helps Pakistan unlock its true economic potential; a partnership that creates opportunities for our businessmen and entrepreneurs to work together to build stronger business ties; a partnership that promotes social and cultural understanding between our people based on tolerance, compassion and humanity. The US can focus its assistance on addressing Pakistan’s energy needs, boost economic growth, facilitate its development and empower its citizens through better education and improved healthcare. In my view under Nawaz Sharif the Pakistan-US relations are likely to reach new heights, and according to reliable sources in Washington President Obama has already given a nod to the State Department to move forward and Secretary of State John Kerry is likely to visit Pakistan very soon and may be extending a formal invitation to Sharif for an official visit to the United States.
So, things are looking extremely positive for Nawaz Sharif on the international horizon, as well as on the diplomatic and foreign policy fronts. This is very encouraging for Pakistan and its relationship with the world community and all eyes are now focused on the new Prime Minister on how he utilizes these advantages to restore Pakistan to its rightful glory.
Javed Malik is an Adviser to Nawaz Sharif, and a former Pakistani ambassador. He is also the President of Diplomatic Business Club in UAE & a noted media person. | Twitter @JavedMalik