Sharif: Janus-like as in two-faced? Or man of transition?

by Rashmee

Posted on May 12, 2013



Lahore Fort, Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif
Lahore Fort, a World Heritage site – gateway to Pakistan’s past (and the future)?

Foreign Policy seems to suggest  that Pakistan’s once and future prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, is a Janus-like figure. Am not sure if they mean that he’s two-faced and thereby not to be trusted? Or whether, as the belief in ancient Rome, that Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions.

The Romans didn’t see Janus’s two-facedness as a flaw. They reasoned that he needed both in order look both to the future and the past?

Anyway, Foreign Policy seems to be looking mainly to Mr Sharif’s behaviour with respect to religious extremism and Pakistan’s relationship with the US.

It is true enough that Mr Sharif has often appeared to play footsie with extremists and that towards the end of this election campaign, he spoke a great deal about what he described as the flawed U.S. “war on terror.”

Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan, election
Nawaz Sharif – Janus-like as in two-faced? Or like the Roman god of transitions?

I’m not sure that is duplicity. Rather, it seems a well-judged combination of truth and realpolitik.

Some say that Mr Sharif’s party appears more willing to negotiate with militants than to fight them but it’s important to remember that he is personally not known to be a religious nut and has from time to time taken a fairly  tough stand against militants. In recent weeks, his party has talked about the same deadly cocktail to deal with  militancy as Washington – ie, a combination of re-integration and reconciliation and rejection of the bad uns. Remember the good Taliban–bad Taliban strategy?

So is Mr Sharif a Janus in Islamabad? It’s probably worth paying attention to comments made by Rand Corp’s counterterrorism expert Seth G. Jones. He says his conversations with Sharif’s advisers revealed great concern about the Pakistani Taliban and the hope that Pakistan would continue to receive American help to fight the group. Perhaps Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s Great Survivor, may be its man of transition?


Rashmee has lived and worked in several countries in the past decade, including Afghanistan, India, Haiti, Tunisia, the UAE, US and UK

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