In the chequered history of India and Pakistan, a new chapter was written recently when prime minister from one country attended swearing-in ceremony of the other for the first time since 1947. But the handshake between the 18th Prime Minister of Pakistan (Nawaz Sharif) and 15th Prime Minister of India (Narendra Modi) saw the separatist leadership of Kashmir being snubbed for the first time.
Some say Nawaz Sharif arrived like a good samaritan, deliberated like an able statesman and walked away like an ideal diplomat—without stirring up hornet’s nest. But then, he did set rumour mills on fire: Sharif indeed kept Modi in a good humour by sidelining separatist leadership. The act was hailed as Modi’s masterstroke!
Born two years after Kashmir dispute took birth (Dec 1949), Sharif belongs to upper-middle class family of Lahore, Punjab. His family emigrated from South Kashmir’s Islamabad district for business, and eventually settled in the village of Jati Umra in Amritsar district, Punjab in the beginning of the twentieth century. His mother’s family hails from Pulwama. After 1947 partition, his parents migrated from Amritsar to Lahore.
Sharif, who was in New Delhi to attend Narendra Modi’s swearing-in on May 26, hoped that both countries should change confrontation into cooperation—as he believed: we owe our people to overcome mistrust and enmity.
Sharif who entered into politics in 1980s was sworn-in as chief minister of Punjab on April 9, 1985. But after Zia’s death and Benazir Bhutto’s being elected Prime Minister in 1988, Sharif emerged as opposition leader from the conservative Pakistan Muslim League. When Bhutto was dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1990 on corruption charges, Sharif was elected Prime Minister the same year.
After Pakistan’s haphazard performance in the Kargil War in late nineties, relations between the Sharif and Musharraf turned sour. And when he attempted to relieve Musharraf from his command on October 12, 1999, the Pak army instead ousted his government, exiling him to Saudi Arabia.
Sharif returned in 2007, and his party contested elections in 2008, forming the provincial government in Punjab under Sharif’s brother Shahbaz until 2013. In the same year, his party achieved the largest number of votes in Pakistani general election. He formed a coalition to become the 18th Prime Minister of Pakistan, returning to the position after fourteen years, in a democratic transition, for an unprecedented third time.
On his departing note from Delhi recently, Sharif hoped that both India and Pakistan would work together for peace and cooperation. But then, the Pak premier, who wished to pick up the threads of Lahore declaration, omitted the ‘K’ word from his statement before leaving Delhi. So shall we say: Kashmir has been thrown on backburner once again? Answer us, premiers!
– Bilal Handoo