ISLAMABAD: Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has exhausted almost all his political capital to make his journey to Lahore an epic, or as close to it as he could manage.
Though he managed to show glimpses of popular support in and near Lahore, something is deeply frustrating for the Sharif camp.
This is the total indifference and lack of response from persons, institutions and organisations directly or indirectly attacked by Sharif, with an increasing viciousness as his rally moved on from Islamabad to Lahore. The desperation was visible as he continued to challenge "five persons" who sent him home, referring to the judges of the Supreme Court, besides references to hidden supporters and conspirators behind his ouster.
The challenge grew from a 'complaint' in his first address at Rawalpindi to the announcement of a 'revolution' as he neared Lahore and a 'declaration' of some sort as he finished his march on a high pitch. Why I say Nawaz has used all his political capital is simple. The GT March was a show of power against forces he could not name but he still tried to address as if he was talking to the invisible elephant in the room.
This show of power was not an Opposition rally against a sitting government or a protest against undemocratic, authoritarian rule or a perverted system.
It was a show in which the entire federal government, the Punjab government, the bureaucracy, police, intelligence agencies and official resources - cars, jammers etc - were backing him.
Cities were closed, businesses shut down, routes changed and everyday life disrupted on government orders to facilitate and enhance the rally.
Each and every move of the PML-N leader was telecasted live on TV channels, led by official PTV. Helicopters were used to monitor security and carrying essentials including food.
It was as if the emperor was moving with his lashkar on a conquest. The entire Punjab belt Sharif covered travelling in his container is known for his political support and has hundreds of elected leaders, MNAs, MPAs, nazims, councillors and administrative officials loyal to him for years.
Such a massive official and political support structure for any rally was never ever seen before or may not be seen again in Pakistan's political history.
It was the epic finale of the King getting his last farewell by his loyal fiefdom. It was Nawaz Sharif's Last Hurrah.
Yet despite such a huge infusion of official resources and total coordination between all sections of the executive (still under PML-N control), Nawaz Sharif was not able to provoke anyone or even pose a threat that could generate a response.
In this state of mind, the ousted leader now says he will give a call for a revolution and is asking his audience to promise to join him. Slogan chanting and excited workers say yes to such calls in public meetings without even knowing or asking what it would mean.
The questions Nawaz has raised are many and some very intriguing. He says his inqilaab would be against 'the system' and 'a few' who run it and 'the beneficiaries' of what he now calls a lopsided system going on for 70 years.
Simple answers may not be liked by Nawaz Sharif. The system he is talking about has seen military and civilian 'few' run it, enjoy it and benefit from it in all these 70 years.
Those from the military paid the price when they were overthrown (Field Marshal Ayub Khan), or murdered (General Ziaul Haq) or disgraced and forced to run into exile (General Pervez Musharraf). The army toiled hard to clean up the mess these dictators left behind in their 30 years of rule. It is still not done with the cleaning though. In the remaining 40 years, those who 'ran' the 'system' and were its 'beneficiaries' include few civilians, most prominent among them Nawaz Sharif and his family.
He has been an integral part of the military establishment, when it enjoyed the system and he has been a formidable part of the civilian set up that ruled, off and on, at intervals.
His family has been the biggest financial beneficiary, as it has now been officially shown by the Panama trial.
Until the day he was the PM, the entire system had nothing wrong to write home about. His nine years as PM, of course with interruptions, and 25 years of unchallenged rule in Punjab, cumulatively come out as the longest serving era of one family rule. With all these undeniable facts of history, what revolution is Nawaz Sharif talking about. Against whom? Himself and his family?
The only possible targets of his revolution can be the Army or, the more softer target, the judges.
So when the next 'call' from the great revolutionary, now named 'Quaid-e-Awam', comes in a few days, will it be for a Long March on the GHQ Rawalpindi, or the Supreme Court in Islamabad, or both? Or is he thinking of an independent Islamic Republic of Punjab?
What he has to keep in mind is that if he makes a call for such a march, it would just be him and his few supporters left on the streets.
The official resources that were available in the GT March would not be there anymore. Nor will he be allowed a free-run. It would be a Herculean mission to accomplish. A mission impossible with no Hercules around.
Published in Daily Times, August 13th 2017.