Pakistan on the Eve of the Afghanistan Drawdown: Key Variables for the Future

Publication date:
Owen Bennett Jones

Policy Research Papers

November 2013

As he looks ahead to 2014 and beyond, Nawaz Sharif should have some confidence that he will complete his third term as Prime Minister. The only political parties that could challenge him, the Bhuttos’ PPP and Imran Khan’s PTI, are currently on the defensive. The PPP is trying to rebuild after a disastrous election and the PTI is grappling with the realities of holding power in Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa.
Having twice been removed from office, Sharif will be mindful of the two institutions that have previously moved against him: the military and the Supreme Court. But here too he can find reasons for reassurance. The army, on the back foot after the Musharraf years, would have little popular backing for a coup. And while the ever more self-confident Supreme Court might consider itself strong enough to challenge an elected government, it would be reluctant to bring down the man who did so much to support the lawyer’s movement that restored the Chief Justice to power.

Of course Pakistan’s habitually crisis-ridden political system can take unexpected, rapid turns but, by historical standards, Nawaz Sharif is in a remarkably secure position.

His political agenda, however, is daunting and most notably includes major challenges in regard to militancy, the economy, governance and the external environment.