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Nawaz Sharif: a sloppy start to national security

By Dr. Mohammad Taqi

Without a holistic strategy addressing Afghanistan, India and also the United States, Mr Sharif cannot even begin to solve the domestic terrorism problem

Two months into his third stint, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his core team’s handling of the national security debate has been cavalier and sloppy at best, and downright dangerous at worst. The ostensibly well-oiled political machine that was supposed to have replaced the chaotic governance of the outgoing Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has yet to issue a coherent statement on the domestic counterterrorism issue and the national security and foreign policies, which Mr Sharif and his associates have been promising after every major terrorist attack. About 60 terror incidents in as many days have not really instilled a sense of urgency. No sane person wants Mr Sharif’s government to fail on the anti-terrorism front or elsewhere for that matter.

We had noted here at the start of Mr Sharif’s term that “his cautious approach early in his stint is understandable but if Mr Sharif does not delineate his idea of the national interest, chances are that the usual suspects who have had a chokehold on formulating such definitions will do it for him. It might not be too long before the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) finds in its lap issues like the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act, which were used to set the national security narrative against the PPP.” Also, within days of President Asif Zardari’s October 2008 interview with The Wall Street Journal to start with a clean slate in India, the Mumbai massacre was unleashed. With the volatility along the Pakistan-India Line of Control in Kashmir, Mr Sharif already has a mini-Mumbai situation on his hands, if not something worse. His previous generic remark that ‘Pakistan and India should be friends’ is not enough. The usual suspects may be defining the national interest for Mr Sharif and perhaps the domestic redlines that they don’t want him to cross.

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