The military establishment seems to be operating under some stress these days. Internal and external events over the last decade have eroded the deep-state’s control to the extent that it depends largely on media and the judiciary to strengthen its power. There have been attempts to subjugate Nawaz Sharif, most of which have ended in failure. Sharif’s opponents in media have indirectly been calling on the powers-that-be to exercise one of the following options: imprison him and Maryam Nawaz, install a technocrat government, or impose a full-fledged martial law. All three of these are problematic and will spell more trouble for the establishment in future. The military understands that taking over might be easy, but holding on to power will prove to be disastrous for the country and the institution. There are lot more independent and powerful actors in the country today which can pose threat to military rule compared to what Musharraf had to deal with a couple of decades ago and the military knows it. The second option is to setup a technocrat government with the help of the judiciary, also called the Bangladesh model. If any conclusions can be drawn from how this model worked out for Bangladesh, it would be an utter failure in Pakistan as well. Wouldn’t we still have Shaukat Aziz as our Prime Minister had technocratic governance been a solution to our complex problems? Moreover, 2018 is the election year and the justification to take such an action will lose all its appeal once the elections are called. Although it seems highly unlikely, if the establishment decides to quickly capitalise on the current discord among political parties, it will have to make unrealistic promises as to what the technocrat setup could achieve in a short span of time. An imminent failure to bring about the committed changes will discredit the military and the judiciary. Since such a set-up will not be conducive to even a pro-military leader like Imran Khan, the establishment will be forced to conduct general elections after 3-5 years and Nawaz Sharif will regain the government. A few years hiatus from government will do little harm to the party’s vote bank where Musharraf’s 9-year dictatorship could do nothing. The last option is to put Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz in prison. Given the similar ideology, mass appeal, and anger of the father-daughter duo, incarcerating only one of the two will not do the job as the other will continue to cause trouble on the streets and towns of Punjab. However, putting both in jail would require a blatant disregard of law by the judiciary, which would tarnish its image in the public and weaken its authority. Once in jail, pressure could be mounted over the two to conform to the military’s policies. This move would probably be the most popular with the establishment’s supporters including the PTI, but the most unpopular one with PML-N voters. Elected governments might seem weak today, but they have legitimacy and time on their side. They have the rights to change constitution and laws, and appoint public officials Not only would it solidify the PML-N’s current voter base, but will also attract a large number of sympathy votes from the public. More votes for Nawaz Sharif would mean less dependence on local electables to form government, moving the party further on confrontational path with the establishment. Such as increase of sympathy vote will also offset any losses to the PML-N vote bank incurred by Tehreek-e-Labbaik or pro-Lashkar groups. Use of such groups as proxies to disrupt election outcomes by the establishment will become difficult due to international pressure. Furthermore, the PML-N government might be forced to take extreme steps like bringing military and judiciary under the scope of accountability laws, or introducing constitutional amendments to curtail the judiciary’s overreach of power. Elected governments might seem weak today, but they have legitimacy and time on their side. They have the rights to change constitution and laws, and appoint public officials. Even after ruling the country for several decades, the establishment has not been able to break any political party’s vote bank. In fact, the more it tries to suppress, the more the voters solidify their support for their parties. Regardless of whether elections are held in 2018 or later, PML-N will again come on top, but with a lot of vengeance this time round. Nawaz Sharif or Maryam will still be in control of the party’s affairs. The longer the conflict persists, the more the status quo will weaken and so will the power of the establishment. The establishment might get its way in the short-run, but this is a pointless battle. The writer is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Administration at Cleveland State University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His twitter handle is @RamblingSufibb Published in Daily Times, November 7th 2017.