The Return of Nawaz Sharif: Can he change Pakistan?

By Supriya Jha | Updated: May 19, 2013, 18:45 PM IST

Supriya Jha

Qatlon se pareshaa logon ne, ek ‘Sharif’ ko taj dia
Jamhooriyat ne aakhir, Pakistan ko ‘Nawaz’ dia…

(People wary of bloodshed, crowned a gentleman (Sharif),
Democracy has finally, graced the country of Pakistan.)

As Islamabad crosses a historic milestone by making a transition from one elected government to another, the veteran from Punjab, Nawaz Sharif has accomplished an unprecedented feat in Pakistan`s political history by becoming the first man to become the country`s Prime Minister thrice.

For a man, who has been toppled twice as Pakistan PM, jailed and exiled, this certainly is his big comeback moment as celebrations have already begun not only in his home turf in Pakistan but also at his paternal house in Amritsar.

As final election results pour in, the predictions of Sharif being crowned the PM for the third term have come true.

According to the latest results announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan, Nawaz`s Pakistan Muslim League-N has attained an overwhelming lead with 123 seats out of 254 National Assembly seats. The first runner up is Pakistan Peoples Party with 31 seats, while Imran Khan`s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has secured 26 seats.

Though still short of a simple majority, Sharif`s PML-N has emerged as the single largest party and his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif has already declared, “Nawaz Sharif will be your Prime Minister”.

Basking in the glory of recieving highest number of votes, an elated Nawaz addressed his jubilant supporters from the roof of his party headquarters at Model Town and sought prayers so that he does not need "crutches" to form a government.

"It has been confirmed that the PML (N) will emerge as the single largest party... People should pray that tomorrow the Muslim League (N) is able to form the government without crutches. Please pray that we do not need anyone`s help to form the government," Nawaz said.

But at the same time, with doubts of not getting a clear majority lurking in his mind, Sharif also looked receptive for other parties` support when he said, “I appeal to all to come sit with me at the table so that this nation can get rid of this curse of power cuts, inflation and unemployment".

For Nawaz Sharif, who has already served two stints as PM in nineties, tackling Pakistan`s tumultuous political atmosphere is not a new task, but it is 2013 and not the nineties. Sharif would take over a country that is in a "mess" in his own words.

Stuttering economy, high unemployment rates, chronic power outages and the unrelenting routine terrorism that just refuses to die – this is how Pakistan looks like today and it would take Sharif more than his entrepreneurship acumen to start getting things right.

Chanting the slogan of "Strong Economy -- Strong Pakistan", and riding high on the wave of dissent generated by the disastrous governance of PPP, Sharif did well to emerge as the hot favourite in the Pakistan elections. He also managed to outshine the new man Imran Khan, who led frenzied rallies and drew magnanimous crowds, especially of youths.

But now, when a third term as PM awaits him, many loopholes in Pakistan`s canvass await Nawaz Sharif.

Apart from his manoeuvres on a faltering economy and disturbing terrorism, his policies on India will be the one worth watching.

Touted as a pro-India PM, it was Nawaz who had led the peace initiative in 1999, but one should not forget that it was the same PM, who reciprocated India`s nuclear tests at Pokharan with nuke tests at Chagai district in Balochistan.

Sharif has always said in his campaigns that he would look forward to recovering the good relations with India if voted to power. He was heard reminiscing good memories from 1999 with Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his election campaigns and he has also vowed to "pick up the threads where we left off in 1999 before Musharraf derailed it".

Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has been quick to congratulate him on his victory saying that he hoped that India- Pakistan ties would improve if Nawaz comes to power in Pakistan. Nawaz`s coming to power in Pakistan is set to have important ramifications for the world and India in particular.

Nawaz who has objected on country`s support to US over war on terror, will have to find new ways to compensate for the millions of dollars that kept coming in from America. Also as troops would withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, all eyes will be on Nawaz as to how he deals with security situation and relations with the US.

Also, with the General Elections scheduled for 2014 in India, one can hope the beginning of an entirely new era in Indo-Pak ties.

For now, Nawaz Sharif is the winner in Pakistan and it is up to him to keep the country from falling into an abysmal chasm of hopelessness and despair.

For a country that has weathered three military coups in its 66-year old political history and dictated by generals for half its life, this has been a special election.

Millions of Pakistanis have risked their lives and come out to vote in an election that has been dubbed as the bloodiest so far.

In the highest turnout recorded ever, which has been pegged at 60%, Pakistani people have for once, decided to defy threats and vote for a change. And this time, the name of the change is Nawaz Sharif.