Nawaz Sharif’ Dismissal, an Unsolicited Blessing for Iran
Relations between Iran and Pakistan have been defined by two contradictory factors of collaboration and competition since the latter gained its independence from India in 1947.
Removal of Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif from office by the Supreme Court last Friday, following corruption allegations that surfaced with release of Panama Papers, have fostered speculations about the future of relations between Tehran and Islamabad.
Despite Nawaz Sharif’s removal from office, his party, Muslim League, still holds the majority in the parliament and Sharif’s successor will come from his own team. Shahbaz Sharif, brother of the ousted prime minister, is the most likely candidate for the post. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the interim prime minister who served as Minister of Commerce in Yousaf Raza Gillani’s government, is another possible choice. Abbasi is known as a figure close to Qatar and owns the Airblue airline. But corruption allegations against Abbasi create serious hurdles in his way towards the post.
Speaking to Tabnak, Hamed Askari, expert on South Asian affairs, believes the short-term impact of the turmoil in Pakistan’s political landscape on Iran-Pakistan ties will be minimal. “In Pakistan, the government has a limited influence over foreign relations, and in general, the country’s diplomacy is conservative in nature. Change of prime ministers will not lead to drastic changes in policies,” he says. However, Askari reminds that with dismissal of Nawaz Sharif from power, the South Asian country’s relations with Riyadh may witness change.
“No one in Pakistan was closer to Saudi Arabia than Nawaz Sharif,” he says. “The former PM owned real estate in Saudi Arabia and lived in the kingdom for years.” Askari adds that with his tilt towards Riyadh in regional affairs and drift away from the traditional neutralist approach, Nawaz Sharif had sparked off objection from domestic rivals in Pakistan. “With Nawaz Sharif’s dismissal, Saudi Arabia’s clout in Pakistan will become weaker, an achievement for Iran without bothering to lift a finger,” Askari says.