New Delhi: Considering that the Turkish strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has lost his political and moral stature by employing dodgy means to become President of his country, the generals in Pakistan must pause in their campaign to destabilize the government of Nawaz Sharief. If the courts remove him after a manifestly fair trial in the so-called Panama-gate scandal, world opinion would scarcely be concerned at the fall of a corrupt head of government. But if the Pakistan army were to depose him through a series of mistaken calculations, it would remove the shield of democracy that has miraculously secured the nation from being declared a state sponsor of terrorism. Preoccupied with the endless troubles caused by North Korea, China would be hard-pressed to come to Pakistan’s aid, and the establishment in Washington would be only too pleased to lower the boom on the country. If the Pakistan army has doubts about this, it could consult the runaway former putschist, Parvez Musharraf, who is enjoying an enforced retirement in the United States.

Pakistan is on the United States’ watch list. The uncertainties prevailing over the US’s continued military role in Afghanistan during the presidency of Barack Obama have been largely settled by his successor, Donald Trump. Trump plays the game of brinkmanship. As the commander-in-chief of the world’s mightiest power, he can play the game at least for some time. The outcome of conflict in the Korean peninsula is difficult to predict, especially since the last one ended in stalemate. Nevertheless, Donald Trump is not Harry Truman, who agonized about Soviet power and intentions without having the means to evaluate their true potential, direction and resolve. And America’s most talented general of the 20th century that Truman sacked for insubordination, the charismatic Douglas MacArthur, is someone Donald Trump worships. MacArthur demanded to open a second front against China after it joined the fighting on the side of its North Korean ally. Given all this, China would be apprehensive of the MacArthur aficionado Trump. In 1950, China had politically and materially less to lose in a general war with the United States than now, when it is an aspiring Great Power. If the United States is in a position to gain the psychological upper hand on China in the Korean crisis without firing a single shot, how can Pakistan stand up to Trump without even a fig leaf of democracy?

The Pakistan army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, should show a greater understanding and appreciation of world politics than he has so far.

Indeed, the Pakistan army is in a bind, and Nawaz Sharief should astutely exploit the situation. The stark fact is this. There is no alternative to Nawaz Sharief with an equivalent international cachet. Imran Khan regularly hits the headlines but is scarcely prime minister material. He is mostly empty-headed and will be a liability for the Pakistan army should he replace Nawaz Sharief. The army is aware of his limitations. The opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is in no position to supply a replacement for Nawaz either. The legislative numbers favour Nawaz Sharief and snap elections may not bring PPP to power. Asif Zardari, moreover, will not approve any measure to subvert Nawaz currently. They have an understanding since the time Zardari was in power.

All this gives Nawaz Sharief wiggle room which he probably does not know exists. As much as the Pakistan army barks, it will be the loser if Nawaz Sharief is deposed. Using this dilemma, the Pakistan Prime Minister must slowly recoup his powers. He would be tempted to play the Kashmir card but it would gain no affection and support from the army. Therefore, he should device an international outreach to turn focus on Pakistan’s imperilled democracy. He should seek to convince the United States that the soundest way to disconnect Pakistan from state terrorism is to put a serious leash on the power of the army to design and execute murderous geopolitics against India and Afghanistan. If he links peace in South Asia to returning the Pakistan army to the barracks, he would win profound respect and backing of the West. If A. B. Vajpayee should have advised him, he would perhaps have said the same. The world is sick of dictators like Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This is Nawaz Sharief’s chance to show he is different. To stop the army in its tracks, he has to get the world on his side.