Just like Prime Minister Narendra Modi completed two years in office on May 26, his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif is also set to see three years of his tenure getting over on June 5.
Irrespective of the two countries' positions, Modi and Sharif share something in common as the prime ministers.
In 2008 when Pak returned to parliamentary democracy, there were not many leaders around
In 2008, when Pakistan underwent a transition from military rule to parliamentary goevrnance, that country was virtually without a leader. With former prime minister Benazir Bhutto assassinated in December 2007 and Pervez Musharraf's position getting weakened, things did not look bright for Pakistan and the onset of the Taliban insurgency put the country under a serious threat.
Bhutto's killing had generated a sympathy wave and helped her husband Asif Ali Zardari engineer a coalition government but his tainted image was not something the Pakistanis cherished.
After the PPP-led govt failed to impress, focus fell back on old war horse Nawaz Sharif
The focus hence fell on Sharif, a rival of the late Bhutto, and he went on to become the premier for the third time in 2013 after his PML(N) swept the polls. It was a clear verdict against the PPP-led administration's failure in governance, especially tackling the power crisis.
Not that Sharif made it look easy
It is not that Sharif has not given any chance of complaints in these three years. Corruption charges (read Panama Papers leak), failure to curb terror threats in the country, seeking to buy negotiated peace with the Pakistani Taliban, upsetting the powerful army are things that went against Sharif in these three years. The sharp protests by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan barely a year after Sharif took over had almost seen him getting toppled.
Yet, he is preferred by an overwhelming number of Pakistanis
But despite all this, a poll in October last year showed that an overwhelming 75 per cent of Pakistanis favoured Sharif above everybody else---something similar in case of Modi in India.
Sharif's party has maintained its good show at the national, provincial and local elections, something which Modi's BJP has also succeeded in replicating since the historic victory of 2014 and one can confidently say that this support is there to stay, despite the odd allegations.
But then why Sharif is still being preferred by such a high number? He is not as charismatic like Bhutto or doesn't have a forceful identity like Musharraf but he reigns. The reason is: Pakistanis still consider him the leader who can be trusted the most.
Like Modi, Sharif has TINA advantage in Pakistan
Sharif, just like Modi, has the TINA (There Is No Alternative) advantage. While Modi has a number of regional challengers in Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee or Arvind Kejriwal, there is no serious threat to his political stature at the national level. The dissatisfying story of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has helped his cause.
Like Arvind Kejriwal for Modi, Sharif was a noisy but unrealistic opposition in Imran Khan
Similarly in Pakistan, the absence of Benazir Bhutto and the yet-to-come-of-age Imran Khan make Sharif look the best among the lot. Khan's PTI though makes a lot of noise in Pakistani politics but the politician still still to transform rhetoric into practical politics---something which gives him a Kejriwal-like image. Like Kejriwal who attacks Modi on every second issue, Khan is also a staunch critic of Sharif but both have failed to win consensus on their political maturity.
In 2014, Khan's involving an army general in the anti-government protests did not go down well with the people of provinces like Balochistan and Sindh where the Punjab-centric military is disliked. Sharif has seen the downs in his past two stints as the PM and now is a more cautious politician now.In India. Modi's 13-year stint as the chief minister of Gujarat has also made him more experienced than say a Kejriwal or Rahul.
Sharif's recent open-heart surgery made Pakistanis jittery; the country has too many internal and external challenges now
The recent open-heart surgery of Sharif had made the Pakistanis panicky for they don't really know who could be the replacement for the 67-year-old. Pakistan is facing serious internal (Taliban and Baloch rebels) and external threats (US drone strike, India-Afghanistan-Iran tie-up) and becoming rudderless at this time is something the people of that country would want as the last thing to happen. The country's economy is also in a delicate position and a stable leadership is what required to protect it.
Sharif might not be the best leader Pakistan has produced but at this hour of leaderlessness, he is that country's best hope. Something similar to Modi on this side of the Wagah border.