Gen Raheel Sharif plans judicial coup against Nawaz (Sunday Guardian)
By MADHAV NALAPAT | NEW DELHI | 6 November, 2016
In a fresh election in Pakistan, the plan is for Raheel Sharif to take over as the leader of a coalition of parties that would act as a third front.
Analysts in key countries who are engaged in tracking developments in Pakistan warn that GHQ Rawalpindi has initiated a plan to remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif before the middle of 2017. Instead of a Musharraf-style military coup, this time around the planning is for the Pakistan Supreme Court to perform the (not very difficult) task of finding Nawaz Sharif guilty of corruption and initiating his prosecution. The grounds given will be the Panama Papers revelations, along with fresh evidence against the Pakistan Prime Minister that has been gathered by GHQ Rawalpindi, including undeclared assets in the United States and Canada. Contrary to those in India who claim that Sharif is insincere about wanting peaceful relations with India, and indeed in contrast to his own fiery rhetoric on Kashmir, these experts say that Sharif has sought to work out a peace agreement with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the principle that “only hawks can ensure a peace settlement”. They say that PM Modi’s gesture of dropping in on the Sharif family for a birthday celebration towards the close of last year “made a big impact on the entire (Sharif) family”, who “saw in Modi a man who could be expected to keep his side of the bargain” in contrast to Manmohan Singh. The 2004-14 Prime Minister is blamed by high-level circles in Islamabad for “making promises which subsequently get forgotten” and in not “walking the talk” on the several secret and overt peace overtures made to Pakistan during the UPA period, including the “Musharraf Formula” of soft borders between the parts of Kashmir held by the two sides, a solution that would allow the migration of several hundred thousand Pashto and Punjabi-speaking settlers across Jammu & Kashmir, thereby strengthening the influence of GHQ Rawalpindi in all corners of the state.
According to these sources, the reason why GHQ seeks to oust Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is that “he is not in favour of an aggressive and adventurous line to match the Modi government’s newfound assertiveness on the Line of Control (LoC)”. Aware of the harmful consequences of any such escalation on the business environment in Pakistan, Sharif is known to have argued against General Raheel Sharif’s call for a “matching response” to recent Indian moves, including the surgical strike on terror camps which took place last month. The Pakistan Prime Minister is known to be against giving an extension to the present Chief of Army Staff, and is seeking to replace him with a Corps Commander “who is junior to at least two other serving generals in the (Pakistan) army”, besides of course General Sharif himself. A key source revealed that “initially the view within the higher command of the Pakistan army was to make the extension of service of the present chief a matter of prestige”, but in September, a Plan B was adopted. This would involve a fresh election in Pakistan, where General Raheel Sharif would take over as the leader of a coalition of parties that would act as a “Third Front” separate from both the PML(Nawaz) and the Zardari-run PPP. The expectation is that the popularity of the present army chief would be sufficient to ensure that this coalition gets a majority in Parliament, especially as there would be a division of votes between the PPP and the PML(N). According to the analysts talked to, GHQ Rawalpindi “has dossiers on every top leader of both the main parties”, and “these would be selectively leaked during the campaign” to contrast them with Raheel Sharif, who has a reputation for integrity.
These sources claim that Imran Khan’s latest agitation was scripted by GHQ to ensure that the Pakistan Supreme Court took up the matter of Nawaz Sharif’s corruption, thus setting into motion the chain of events expected to end in his downfall. They claim that Imran Khan has reached an understanding with the military to accept the leadership of Raheel Sharif in a future coalition government, in which he would be the Foreign Minister. It may be mentioned that Raheel Sharif has very close contact with both the US and China, and has recently built bridges with Moscow on the recommendation of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Over the past four years, China has ensured that the Pakistan military retains its strike capability against India, “as the PLA wants to launch a second front, should India join the US and Japan in entering into a conflict with China over the East or South China Sea or over North Korea or Taiwan”. According to the sources spoken to, “Raheel Sharif has promised to open a second front in the event of hostilities between India and China”, despite the fact that such a reciprocal gesture has not been made by Beijing during any of Pakistan’s wars with India.
A high-level source claimed that “while Raheel Sharif is trusted in Beijing, Nawaz Sharif is not”, thereby implying that Pakistan’s closest ally would have no problem were the present Prime Minister of Pakistan replaced by the Chief of Army Staff, “especially if such a change were to occur through the ballot box”. China is in the process of supplying fifth-generation fighter aircraft to the Pakistan air force “as soon as two squadrons of fourth-generation Rafale aircraft get inducted into the Indian Air Force. Beijing is already co-producing J17 aircraft with Pakistan, and has gifted that country’s navy eight diesel submarines to counter the Indian fleet. Interestingly, General Raheel Sharif has managed to persuade Russia to supply Mi-35 helicopters, using the excuse that these were intended for counter-terror operations in FATA and in parts of Balochistan. Interestingly, together with the move of the military in Pakistan to remove the PM, terrorists from the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Jamat-ud-Dawa and Jaish-e-Mohammad are openly congregating in cities across Pakistan, even though these are wanted by both the US as well as India.
Once a new government linked to the Pakistan military gets formed in Islamabad, the intention is to ramp up the “internal insurgency” in Kashmir. In this context, GHQ claims that four districts in south Kashmir have become no-go-zones for police, with those in uniform still present “being rendered frightened and ineffective” by pro-Pakistan groups. GHQ Rawalpindi has asked its men in Kashmir to get hold of police weapons, “so that innocent people can be shot and the police blamed”. More than a hundred such weapons have already been seized by pro-Pakistan elements from the police, “with around two dozen having been handed over voluntarily by police personnel” close to such elements.
The intent of GHQ Rawalpindi is to “ensure that future acts of violence get perpetrated entirely by home grown terrorists” and not by imports from across the border. In this context, “the effort to make Burhan Wani a heroic martyr is intended to tempt many more such impressionable youth into joining the groups planning to launch a wave of insurgent attacks in Kashmir around the time Nawaz Sharif is removed in Islamabad”. “Along with responding through conventional actions such as sniper fire and rocket shelling from across the LoC, the plan is to intensify terror operations across India and create a climate of insurgency in Kashmir”, claimed an analyst based in the US. These sources say that GHQ Rawalpindi “does not share the feelings of Nawaz Sharif for (PM) Modi, and hence wants to replace him with a substitute who would be supportive of a policy of robust move across the LoC and through proxies the rest of Kashmir”.
According to them, the present Prime Minister of Pakistan is “counting the days before he is removed from office by the judiciary”.