Perception and reality, it’s a sketchy phenomenon. Word on the street in Lahore is that the establishment was actively campaigning against Sharif’s wife and PML-N candidate Kulsoom Nawaz. Multiple videos of the voters circulated in social media and Whatsapp groups complaining against the Army’s role in halting their fundamental right to cast the vote in favor of PML-N. In one such video, supporters of PML-N were seen chanting slogans against Imran Khan in front of an Army vehicle; as if they see the Army as an ally of anti-Nawaz Sharif forces. In her winning speech, Maryam Nawaz Sharif declared PMLN’s victory a win against the seen and “unseen forces”.The perception is that it has never been about accountability and it isn’t now. It’s more about revenge against one family. Nawaz Sharif was declared disqualified to be an MNA by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the basis on misdeclaration of assets. After his ouster from the Prime Minister’s office, Nawaz Sharif took to the GT Road from Islamabad to Lahore and questioned the reason of his ouster. He made veiled references to the forces behind the decision. In a meeting with senior journalists, Nawaz Sharif said that the decision of his ouster was made long before the actual decision was announced by the Supreme Court.It seems that he has been able to convince his voters, supporters and followers that his ouster is not based on justice but on conspiracy. The unelected state institutions need to take a few steps back, reconsider their options and support the democratic processWhat used to be an academic discussion, is now a discussion in the open; civil-military imbalance.NA-120 by-election has mainstreamed the discussion of Civilian supremacy over the ever so powerful establishment in Pakistan.Electronic media is too scared to show the sentiment against the Pakistan Army, but it doesn’t mean that the element of hate is not present in those videos. People blamed the Army for slow polling process, the Army may not have anything to do with it, but that’s how the people of NA-120 felt. The introduction of a political face of a banned extremist organization helps substantiating the thought that Army interfered in the NA-120 poll.Our establishment has a history of political interference; for, being the king maker. It’s a matter of record that Nawaz Sharif was their prodigy. He is a popular leader of central Punjab now. And the perception is that he was thrown out of the Prime Minister’s office because of his differences with the establishment on foreign policy and other issues. It is said that the establishment has decided to teach him a lesson.Nawaz Sharif is posturing to fight it out, to earn back the respect for his supporters’ vote. Who will emerge victorious and at what cost?I can assure you that no one will be the winner. The army will gain a lot of hate in Punjab, Nawaz Sharif is a popular leader, whether you like it or not. The Army as an institution enjoys great support in Punjab but that will change once this battle gets more intense.Nawaz Sharif will turn this battle into “People versus Army”, and it will get ugly.Nawaz Sharif will also be at a loss at the end of it, his party will weaken, and there will be a lot of dirt on him through the NAB references that he now faces in Accountability Court.And most importantly, it will be the loss of the people of Pakistan. The democratic system will suffer. Democracy is the only way forward and it should be allowed to operate without any outside influence or interference. Pakistan can only prosper if there is true democracy in the country.The establishment needs to take a few steps back, reconsider their options and support the democratic process. They may not be able to twist Nawaz Sharif’s arm the way they did with Altaf Hussain and Asif Ali Zardari. If Nawaz Sharif resists and fights back then the consequences won’t be good for all the stakeholders. The writer is a Lahore-based journalist with a keen interest in social, economic and security issues facing Pakistan. He can be reached on twitter @waqas464 and at Waqas464@hotmail.com Published in Daily Times, September 26th 2017.