VIEW : A very sharif Nawaz — Karan Thapar

Mr Sharif offered India a joint investigation and the full
sharing of what it reveals. He also promised a thorough inquiry into Kargil and
agreed to share its full report with the Indian government



 


The first
thing that strikes you about Nawaz Sharif is his smile. It is big and broad and
seems to cover his large face. And when he smiles his eyes light up. The
combined effect makes him look both youthful and mischievous. There are moments
when you suspect Mr Sharif knows this and uses his obvious charm
strategically.

The second striking feature is Mr Sharif’s courtesy. It is
a combination of language, soft-spokenness, demeanour, and the feeling you get
is that he is actually concerned about you. I have never met a former head of
government who exudes courtesy so fulsomely.

We met at Mr Sharif’s
luxurious Raiwind estate outside Lahore. Peacocks and deer frolic in the
gardens. Inside the palatial house, two large stuffed lions stand sentinel
outside the drawing room door. A ceaseless succession of servants serve trays
laden with a variety of snacks, juices, tea and coffee.

A sizeable
collection of courtiers, colleagues and secretaries stand dutifully in the large
entrance hall and you know Mr Sharif is approaching by the sudden hush that
descends on them. Although civilians they seem to snap to attention.

When
he walks in it is obvious Mr Sharif cuts a presence. He is not a tall man and he
is in danger of becoming fat. But that is not why he stands out. Nor because he
struts or swaggers. Instead, he seems to silently glide in. It is the surprise
that catches your attention.

On the morning I met him, Mr Sharif was
wearing a pale blue shalwar kameez with a grey waistcoat and matching cufflinks.
Though there was nothing flash about his appearance and it was unmistakably
bespoke.

Fourteen years out of power have taught Mr Sharif to weigh his
words carefully. He knows what he wants to say and will not be pushed into
saying more. Yet when I interviewed him his message to India was carefully
calculated, consciously delivered and forcefully underlined by his obvious
sincerity. Mr Sharif said that he would not permit Pakistani territory to be
used for any terrorist activities against India. The LET, though already banned,
would be effectively curbed. Hafiz Saeed’s hate speeches would no longer be
tolerated.

Of course, we have heard other Pakistani leaders say similar
things but Mr Sharif went a lot further. He will investigate allegations of ISI
involvement in 26/11. In fact, Mr Sharif offered India a joint investigation and
the full sharing of what it reveals. He also promised a thorough inquiry into
Kargil and agreed to share its full report with the Indian
government.

When it came to the economy, Mr Sharif said he welcomed
Indian investment, particularly in power plants. Once again, his eyes lit
up!

The critical question is can Nawaz Sharif deliver on all of this?
Time alone will tell. But no other Pakistani leader has spoken so clearly and
candidly. That could be one reason to trust him.

At the end of two half
hour interviews, I asked if he had a message for the Indian people and Mr Sharif
seized the opportunity, conveying in the process both his passion and sincerity.
He began in English but cleverly switched to Punjabi for his punch line:
“Baadshao baitho saade naal, dil saaf karo, asi 1947 de pehle ikko hi mulk sa,
aur koi farak naahin si, udar te edar.” “We have a lot of love and affection for
you...we must become good friends and hold each other’s hands...let us make a
new beginning.” And, then, reverting to Punjabi, ended “Meri duwaan tuwade naal
hain.” (My prayers are with you).

The writer is a prominent talk show
host in India