We have landed in times where religiosity has peaked, with the state beating a retreat before it, and any reference to a positive “India index” of a politician can bring the state down on his head. Nawaz Sharif was ousted for the “corruption” of not “taking salary from his son” as cases pend before the National Accountability Bureau to ultimately land him in jail. But what damns him most is his “India-sucking,” that is, kowtowing to India’s “evil” designs on Pakistan and thus harming the Kashmir cause.
The latest charge from Imran Khan, whose ambitions to rule Pakistan after a snap election are no secret, alludes to this: “I claim today that Sharif will do everything possible to save his Rs. 300 billion transferred through money-laundering. O Sharif! You will even befriend Modi to save your money. You will sacrifice all interests of Pakistan at the international level.”
He had Nawaz on the mat on two grounds, ideology and nationalism, both expressed as the ultimate criterion of nationhood in the textbooks that no one can detoxify. There is an appeal in this statement to the empowered clerical underworld interfacing with terrorism and the Army that stands as guardian of Pakistan’s India-centric foreign policy and internal security hinged to ideology. The message is: get rid of this deviant who will destroy Pakistan by making it go in a direction that the country is not meant to take.
Both PMLN and PPP have had this treatment meted out to them before ousters from power. An independent foreign policy became so problematic that Nawaz Sharif finally decided after 2013 not to have a foreign minister in his government. It all went back to the days when he and his Indian counterpart, IK Gujral, were becoming too cozy, with Nawaz verbally offering to sell electricity to India. Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad immediately reprimanded him in front of Gujral for crossing the “India index” red line; and Nawaz’s own foreign Minister Gohar Ayub hissed: “What about Kashmir?” Before 2013 polls, Nawaz pledged to “normalize” with India and won. And he refused to have a foreign minister. Result: he is out in the wilderness today.