The fallout from Nawaz Sharif’s interview, and the “controversial comments” contained within, has been messy to say the least. The race to score political points was dirty and disparate, with political parties clambering over each other to come up with the gravest of condemnations and the choicest insults – seeing as this is election season, no one can expect any less.
The response from the state – in which we will include the military, the government, and the ruling party members – has been no less haphazard. Under the stern disapproval of the military, factions hastily threw their weight behind different positions before different audiences, often contradicting themselves in the process. The final picture is scrambled; if one was to ask what is the Pakistan Muslim Leauge – Nawaz’s (PML-N) official stance on the matter it would be difficult to present a cohesive answer.
Shehbaz Sharif, the leader and Prime Ministerial candidate for the party has toed the cautious pro-establishment line; firmly disavowing how the remarks had been “misinterpreted” and “misrepresented”.
Chaudhry Nisar, the estranged leader of the party, who has never missed an opportunity to reinsert himself into politics as a pro-establishment alternative to PML-N’s other offerings, was quick to blame India for delay in the Mumbai attacks trial while staying relatively mum about Nawaz himself.
The Prime Minster was forced to attend National Security Committee (NSC) meeting, the country’s top civil-military body, and in the resulting statement “unanimously termed this statement as incorrect and misleading”, but he later softened his stance by saying that the interview misquoted Nawaz Sharif.
And where does Nawaz stand in all of this? He is as defiant as ever; asking “what did I say in the interview that was wrong”, defending his patriotism is strong words, and challenging his opponents to investigate the matter.
To reconcile all of this with the statements from past military establishment members, which corroborate Nawaz’s standpoint, is a herculean task.
The dust has yet to settle and we can expect more before this controversy is laid to rest.