Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif's sustained stand on the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai that left 166 people dead despite a strong backlash from inside Pakistan shows that the ousted leader is living up to a definite game plan and he is doing it courageously.
Sharif held on to his position on Monday, May 14, three days after he gave an explosive interview to a leading Pakistani daily slamming Islamabad's failure to stop terrorists from crossing the border and cause a mayhem in Mumbai and also in completing the trial. He said he did not say anything wrong although his spokesperson said the former PM, who was disqualified in July last year on charges of corruption, said his statement was grossly misinterpreted.
That Sharif succeeded in rattling his internal enemies, especially the Pakistani Army, was evident when the general huddled on Monday along with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to reject the former's statement as misleading. The army, along with Sharif's own former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Khan, blamed it on India accusing it of not cooperating with Pakistan on the 26/11 attacks and running a campaign to vilify Pakistan in front of the world.
It is a point of no return for Sharif
For Sharif, it is a point of no return now. The leader has been cornered to a great political disadvantage and could even find himself completely irrelevant in Pakistani politics in days to come. So, as somebody who was floored by his internal foes on multiple occasions and has little to lose now, Sharif went for the counter-attack and remained defiant. He has donned the mantle of a statesman to discredit the army, which has influenced Pakistan's fate for most period since independence, before the common people as his last-ditch effort to stay afloat.
Sharif, however, has let down his own party in this individual-versus-institution tussle as his reiteration of what he said in the interview left the PML-N, which tried to save him saying the account was "misleading", leaves it red-faced. But that is only a collateral damage for Sharif, a man who is now almost alone to fight his own battle.
It will not be easy for Sharif to win this battle because the army is still the dominating force in Pakistan, even if it chooses to play its shots indirectly nowadays. But Sharif's ploy of placing the matter in the people's court hoping that it would spark a moral backlash against the men in uniform conveys the message that Pakistan's democracy is slowly coming of age. May be a decade of undisturbed civilian rule has made it possible. But Sharif certainly did something that an elected representative should do - call for accountability.