It is almost four months now since he was disqualified. But Nawaz Sharif seems to have succeeded so far in keeping his Party from morphing into a ‘Q’ like faction or factions. And with only three months to go for Senate elections he is likely to redouble his defiant efforts to disprove all those TV-talk show anchors claiming to have confirmed information about the formation of a forward block within the ruling PML-N with about 90-members all set to abandon the Party and in the process not only defeat Nawaz’s bid for sweeping the Senate come March 2018 but also bring down the Shahid Khaqan Abbasi government replacing it with another PML government but carrying a new alphabet to distinguish it from the PML-N. How this tug-of-war is going to end — in favour or against Nawaz? One can perhaps try to fathom the final outcome of this contest by the successes achieved by the other side or by the failure or otherwise of Nawaz by recalling the way two similar clashes had ended in the past. The first Nawaz government was ousted was when in 1993 the Prime Minister openly refused to take dictation from the then constitutionally all-powerful President, the late Ghulam Ishaq Khan. The outgoing PM’s defiance in the face of the politically and administratively omnipotent establishment and also the fact that he was restored by the Supreme Court after having been removed under Article 58(2)B had seemingly sent his popularity among voters in Punjab soaring sky-high making it almost impossible to abandon ship for the usually non-ideological brood of the ‘electable’ in the majority province who are known always to look at you-know-who (YKW) for political mentoring. This ‘unsavoury’ political situation had forced the then establishment manipulators to rig the 1993 elections against the PMLN but certainly not in favour of the PPP which eventually formed the government in Islamabad headed by the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Why was the rigging not in favour of the winning PM? Because the PPP had to be once again kept out of Punjab so they made the Party share the spoils in the province stolen from PMLN with its electoral ally, the PML(J) led by Hamid Nasir Chattha. The deficit in the votes for BB to win the leader of the house office was made up by the Sindh urban PPP seats which it could win because the MQM as per the establishment’s orders had boycotted the National Assembly polls that year on some flimsy grounds but participated extra-vigorously the provincial elections winning more than enough seats in the Sindh assembly to keep the PPP provincial government on its toes throughout its truncated term rendering it incapable of taking any decision that did not fit in establishment’s scheme of things. One detects a kind of panic in the opposite camp as it is trying hastily to prepare the ground for a ‘favourable’ outcome of the 2018 elections with the PMLN contesting minus Nawaz and MQM minus Altaf. The PPP is already minus BB Fed-up too quickly with Benazir’s attempts at assertive governance, the establishment sent her packing again even before she could complete three years in office, again accusing her of corruption. How? Why? It is a long story, needing a separate column, which one can attempt if and when the occasion warranted. Returning to the current subject we see the establishment bringing Nawaz back for the second time in 1997 giving him two-third majority in the National Assembly knowing very well the level of massive corruption that the family led by the late elder Sharif had indulged in during the tenures of Sharif brothers in the immediate past as Prime Minister and Punjab Chief Ministers proving once again that corruption was or is not an issue with our permanent establishment, but defiance would always be. And whenever they had wanted to take care of a defiant PM or an ‘impertinent’ government the pretext used has always been corruption of which they have in their closets piles and piles of files on the ‘victims’, mostly based on facts. The drama starts with leaking of these files to a ‘receptive’ media and then putting to use a ‘compliant’ judiciary. Nawaz lost his office for a second time because he had started asking rather defiantly some very searching questions about the Kargil misadventure. This time too, throughout the period when he was being tried on the trumped up charges of hijacking and tangible allegations of corruption, the PML-N had remained intact but only to morph quickly into PML-Q when he preferred exile to being hanged or life sentenced for ‘hijacking’. Even during exile, he somehow succeeded in keeping his popularity from waning in Punjab. And true enough the PML-Q lasted no more than one general election after Nawaz returned home in 2007. From the foregoing one can deduce whatever one wishes would happen by the time we reach the deadline for the 2018 general elections. However, one detects a kind of panic in the opposite camp as it is trying hastily to prepare the ground for a ‘favourable’ outcome of the 2018 elections with the PML-N contesting minus Nawaz and MQM minus Altaf. The PPP is already minus BB. The ham handed way with which they had tried to get MQM-Pakistan and Pakistan Sarzameen Party (PSP) join hands indicates the desperation of YKW to keep urban Sindh from being captured by PPP as in-fighting has all but destroyed the residual MQM. Dr Farooq Sattar and Mustafa Kamal are rankers not leaders. They lack the capacity to use the strong-arm tactics and fake information that Altaf had employed so expertly to keep the Urban Sindh voters completely sold to an ideology based on the sun-set notion of Mohajir ethnicity. Their desperation seems to have increased many folds as after having reached the conclusion that the MQM cannot be revived without Altaf they are now trying to revive the defunct Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) at a time when two major components of the former alliance — the Jamat-i-Islami and Jamiatul Islam (F) – are firmly entrenched in the opposite political camps; hoping against hope that if not the MQM, perhaps the MMA could re-win urban Sindh for YKW in 2018. The writer is a senior journalist based in Islamabad. He served as the Executive Editor of Express Tribune until 2014 Published in Daily Times, November 18th 2017.