PML-N President Mian Nawaz Sharif, in an exclusive interview to Nawa-i-Waqt on Sunday, called for a review of Pakistan’s policy on the war on terror, expressed his opinion about several issues of internal interests and clarified his views on relations with India. Pakistan’s participation in the war on terror has been the subject of a bitter controversy since the time former President Musharraf nodded his approval to join the dangerous adventure. Critical views have ranged from calling the decision a disastrous mistake committed without due deliberations of its obvious fallout on the country’s long-term interests, to a serious failure to conclude a prior agreement with the US, which spelled out the parameters within which Islamabad would extend its support to the war. Quite a few look at the war as a geopolitical compulsion in the face of an overwhelming pressure of the sole superpower. A sizeable majority has, it appears, reconciled itself with the need for a review of the policy in line with the resolutions of Parliament and decisions of the all parties’ conference. The general feeling in the populace is that as Parliament reflects the view of the people, the government must keep making genuine efforts to have its resolutions accepted. In an ideal setting, though, the participation in the Afghan war could be relabelled and the war on terror label dispensed with. Any effort to restore peace and the writ of the state under the label of “fighting terror” now has such negative connotations that most such exercises are doomed to failure even before they begin.

Pakistan should be devoting its energies to repairing the damage caused by ten years worth of mishandling, especially among Pashtun citizens.

Other subjects Mian Nawaz touches on in the interview include the Balochistan situation, the forthcoming general elections, the system of proportional representation, the energy crisis and relations with India. He believes that the Balochistan problem can be solved by negotiating with the genuine leadership of the province. In the current scenario, however, with the Sardari system still in vogue, the relatively low literacy rate and backwardness, the view that the prolonged disregard of Balochistan rights, the insecure situation and the high handedness of government agencies have been enjoying, it is difficult to pinpoint genuine leadership. The situation is far more complex and needs a comprehensive review of the role of government agencies in the province as well.

The PML-N President neither believes that the elections will produce a hung Parliament, nor favours the system of proportional representation. For the energy crisis, he blames both Musharraf and the present setup and deals with a question on Kalabagh by simply saying that though utility of the project is unquestioned, he prefers unity in the country. Regrettably, he does not commit to bring round the dissidents, if his party comes to power. His favourable attitude to developing relations with India is based on the fallacious argument of improved ties exerting pressure on India to settle disputes, including Kashmir. By putting the cart before the horse, even the first step in the journey is inconceivable. While Mian Nawaz is the leader of the latest opposition party, one would expect more of him on the subject of the war on terror, than the simple suggestion of a review. In order to prove that he has ideas for situations where he feels the present government has failed to deliver solutions, he will have to be a bit more forthcoming than to suggest “a review”.