After Nawaz visit, Pak’s ‘real’ Sharif heads to US

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Washington DC is not a very big city by world capital standards, but evidently this town ain’t big enough for two Sharifs from Pakistan to visit at the same time. Three weeks after the country’s enfeebled PM Nawaz Sharif visited the White House to meet President Obama, the nation’s army chief General Raheel Sharif will arrive here on a trip where real business is expected to be conducted.

General Sharif will not be meeting President Obama, but there is little doubt that Washington regards him as the “real Sharif” and the “big Sharif”, with whom it can do business, although it is not clear if he is seen as the better or worse of the two Sharifs.
The US seldom sees an uniformed general it does not like, and the broad view in Washington is that Gen Raheel Sharif is still in his honeymoon phase with the US, where credulous spinmeisters weave yarns about the country’s progressive and professional generals who will deliver results prescribed by America, the same way expectations were set up for Sharif’s predecessors Kayani and Musharraf, before they were condemned.

The Pakistani military itself has made no secret of the fact that it is the real power in the country. It (the military) made the announcement about General Sharif’s visit, with the army PR, three-star Lt Gen Asim Bajwa, tweeting that “#COAS will visit USA from 15-20 Nov. Will hold mtngs with mil and political leadership on wide ranging security issues.”

The sheer chutzpah of an army shill announcing that the general will be holding meetings with the political leadership of a country he is visiting would be surprising anywhere except in the case of Pakistan where the khakhis have long called the shots behind a civilian facade.

The current military dispensation has been even more ruthless in asserting its primacy. Just days before PM Nawaz Sharif embarked on his visit to US last month, his NSA Sartaj Aziz was summarily relieved of his post and replaced with a retired three-star general, Naseer Khan Janjua. Janjua effectively became the civilian government’s minder to ensure it did not cave into US pressure during the Washington visit.

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