When Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmedinejad was running for President of Iran, he was fawned over in Iranian and regional media as a simple man, a man of the people, and a real populist. In short, no critical examinations of his policies or beliefs occurred, much to the later dismay of the Iranian people and the the international community. Rather than pursue policies to build an effective Iranian state, Ahmedinejad pursued funding international terrorism, a spewing virulent anti-semitism directed towards Israel, and the jewish community in general. He turned out to be hostile to the West, and posing a serious threat to regional peace and stability.
Now, this sort of political amnesia and lack of scrutiny is rearing its ugly head again as Nawaz Sharif imposes himself on the political landscape of Pakistan. With the many challenges facing President Zardari and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the pro-Islamist Sharif is now being uncritically labeled Pakistan’s most popular leading figure, even though his party (Pakistan Muslim League -PML) was defeated electorally by the PPP in last years elections. In fact, Sharif’s entire political focus has been on Islamic populism fused with vigorous anti-Western sentiments, pandering to extremist views, and labeling his opponents in the 1990 election campaigns as agents of an “Indo-Zionist” lobby.
Sharif’s embrace of extremism is political poison for Pakistan. He simultaneously fans the flames of anti-semitism, and whip up needless hostility towards India. While Pakistan and India have had more than their share of conflict over the years, what is needed is leadership that peacefully engages India, not saber-rattling and poison-pen rhetoric from Nawaz Sharif. Sharif’s embrace of extremism and bigotry are bad enough, but when it is coupled with his proven track record of nuclear-brinksmanship with India (recklessly engaging in nuclear detonation “test” in the late 1990’s), it spells instability and a real threat to the continued peaceful existence of the nation. Pakistan does not need a return to the bigotry and anti-semetism under Nawaz Sharif that the country labored under during the 1990’s, and that Iran was saddled with for the last several years.