Nawaz Sharif, having been disqualified by the apex court, is still adamant and trying his best to stay within the political system as well as the country’s power structure dominated by the military for decades. Why is he still stubborn? Why hasn’t he accepted the Supreme Court’s verdict and what motivated him to stage a rally on GT road from Islamabad to Lahore? What is that, that Nawaz Sharif wants to achieve by addressing the public here and there? Does he still have a political future?
To begin with, the Supreme Court’s 5-0 verdict did not go well with a section of the population that includes PML-N and its following, independent legal experts and certain political analysts.
By and large, the aforementioned categories of the society concluded that ‘due process’ and ‘fair trial’ have been significantly compromised. As an indicator, one may point to the judges’ reliance on dictionary than law of the land to interpret what constitutes an asset. It would have been desirable an act had the apex judiciary judged Sharif’s final fate after having obtained the summary of the proceedings of the references referred to National Accountability Bureau (NAB) that is ironically over sighted by a Supreme Court judge. In such a scenario, Nawaz Sharif and the court would have sufficient time and resources to deal with the nitty-gritty of, for example, definitional aspect of an asset. Such a measure would also have deprived Nawaz of the required material to differ with, if not criticise, the court’s judgment.
Nevertheless, this never was the case and having been ousted from the office for the third time as an elected prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz gathered courage and made his mind to take the matter to the public — the very public whom he did not brother to mix with in past four years. Moreover, as prime minister, he also ignored the parliament except in crisis, ie PTI sit-in in 2014. Since he lost his membership of the National Assembly, he lost the opportunity to knock at the parliament’s doors for rescue. Thus, left with only one choice, Nawaz took to the streets or better roads.
First, he drove from Murree to Islamabad and, on the way, got a relatively warm glimpse of public applauding him in the vicinity of the federal capital. Secondly, he chose to drive from the latter to Lahore in the form of a public rally which is still half-way. At various public points at the GT road, Nawaz Sharif, surrounded by party men, workers and fans, spoke his mind though cautiously and partly. In sheer anger, copies of the Supreme Court’s order were torn apart. Moreover, reference was made to Mumtaz Qadri’s huge funeral that was publicly observed in negation, from the PML-N’s view, of the very court’s order.
Though Nawaz Sharif was successful in terms of mobilisational politics; his party men, including the newly appointed prime minister, stood by him; party cadre was visible. However, what he lacks is a clear-cut strategy coupled with a well-conceived political metaphor. By his short addresses to the rallying public, it is yet not clear, to a layman, whom the former prime minister signalled at and what objectives he wanted to achieve. For a common man, he tried to show off his governments’ performance of past four years in especially the energy sector. Moreover, he still wishes to maintain his hold over the party and gearing it towards the coming election.
The Saudis seem more dependent on Pakistan’s military than civil leadership owing to the troubled war in Yemen. Therefore, they might not come to carry Nawaz Sharif off to a palatial setting this time around
It is very hard to predict a mass movement stirred by Nawaz Sharif due to our polarised society. Moreover, the opposition parties particularly PPP is not willing to be on board and PTI’s lifeline is contingent on the death of the PML-N, if not the PPP. Pakistan is culturally and historically a dissimilar, for instance, case from Turkey and, therefore, the nature of and dynamics of Pakistani civil-military relations are substantially distinctive from any other country. Thus, any Turkish style mass movement is not likely nor is any external power, such as Saudi Arabia, powerful enough to influence Pakistan. The Saudis seem dependent on Pakistani military than civil leadership owing to the troubled war in Yemen. Therefore, they might not come to rescue Nawaz Sharif to a palatial setting this time around.
Last but not the last, Nawaz Sharif’s biggest challenge lays in keeping his house in order. People like Tehmina Durrani are uttering a divisive metaphor while the security establishment has distanced itself from Nawaz Sharif. Shehbaz Sharif is being signalled via Bol TV etc., to part ways. If the former stab in his brother’s back, both will be losers. Nawaz, immediately, and Shehbaz, ultimately. However, if they stay united, they will be able to keep the party intact, which is a prerequisite to win convincingly in the next election and somehow be in a position to renegotiate with the deep state.
In any case, the disqualification has sent a clear message. Nawaz Sharif’s fate and capacity to be in power, again, is sealed. However, politics, as they say, is a game of possibilities. I am definitely pessimistic about Nawaz’s comeback due to the mentioned reasons.
The writer is Head, Department of Social Sciences, Iqra University, Islamabad. He is a DAAD, FDDI and Fulbright Fellow. He tweets @ejazbhatty
Published in Daily Times, August 13th 2017.