In 1996, a very prominent journalist and now a renowned TV anchor was called upon by Mian Nawaz Sharif at a famous resort in the hills of Bhurban, Murree. At this gathering of a few journalists, Nawaz Sharif boasted about his plan to remove Benazir Bhutto government and come into the Parliament with a massive majority. Shockingly, a couple months later, Benazir’s government was dismissed on charges of corruption under the 58 2-B (the dictatorial law that handed the power to President to dismiss an elected government). We all know the story of the 1990’s and this case is an unerring example of the sheer power Pakistani establishment enjoys over the system encompassing politicians and institutions, power stemming from years of dictatorial rule and security state dynamics (which is a separate debate to be had altogether). Perhaps, the previous Chief of Army Staff’s role in propping up the PTI dharna and the ouster of Former Prime Minister Gilani orchestrated by the then DG ISI and PML-N serve as even more prudent examples. The history of Pakistani politics landscape is awash with ‘behind the scenes’ deals between the establishment and politicians that has produced leaders, governments, and truces and saved the corrupt. Question is: has another deal happened? The analyses of the situation in the country right now are tricky and intricate. When Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif met the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia in January, the rumour in the power corridors of Islamabad was that he had been given a ‘shut up’ call. Perhaps, there is another alternative theory which hints towards a deal. One has to be naïve to not see that Nawaz Sharif has removed the criticism of the army from the equation completely on the insistence of the higher ups from Saudi Arabia. All of his slogans became anti judiciary as opposed to taking a dig at previous army generals and dictators. Nawaz Sharif locked horns with the judiciary and not the army. It is visible that his narrative of being the target of a huge conspiracy hatched via the JIT and Supreme Court has resonated with the masses in the country, especially Punjab. And while he wasn’t targeting the army directly, his anti-establishment rhetoric by targeting the Judiciary did rattle the nerves of the top generals and military commanders in the country because the biggest province refuses to let go off Mian Nawaz Sharif. Punjab, after all, is where the military derives most of its armed personnel and infantry from. It is by virtue of its huge population extremely strategic to the country’s interests. Its strategic value makes it definitive that the establishment would not want it to become a breeding ground for hatred against them due to Nawaz Sharif’s continuous rhetoric of damage to democracy, conspiracies and biased judiciary. Such aggression in Punjab and other areas of the country has, perhaps, proven to be the chink in the establishment’s armor and made them willing of a truce. Simultaneous developments reveal that things are settling down for the Sharif family. Most important of which have happened in the same time period. The PML-N government, which had driven into disagreement with military and refused to help the Saudi government’s war in Yemen in 2015 agreed to send 1,000 troops very recently to Saudi Arabia to train and provide tactical-strategic support to Saudi forces. This was done to protect the country from attacks on the Najran province border with Yemen and has happened possibly in return for breathing space from the establishment in the Sharif family accountability. Followed by this was the two-month extension period for NAB case hearings which means the Sharif family can function with ease in the following months and conduct rallies to amass voters to ensure that there is no real threat of party disintegration before the coming election. Another point to be noted is that while the PML-N continues its tirade against Nawaz Sharif’s unfair disqualification and biased accountability, it has refused to nominate hardliners like Pervez Rashid to become Senate Chairman. If the fight really was against the military and establishment now, then Mian Nawaz Sharif would have pit the Senate against the army thereby producing a huge institutional tussle. For now, PML-N will continue its aggressive stance on media because it is regaining its lost ground to PTI through Nawaz Sharif’s narrative building centred on an unfair process of accountability. it seems that a real tussle against the army is out of the question. It also appears that the meeting in Saudi Arabia produced some outcomes that favoured all parties involved- Saudis, Sharif family and Pakistan army. If these analyses hold to be true, Sharif’s might escape scathed but un-convicted from NAB hearings. But with everything in Pakistani politics, it can’t be predicted with a guarantee. Only time would tell. When Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif met the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia in January, the rumour in the power corridors of Islamabad was that he had been given a ‘shut up’ call. Perhaps, there is another alternative theory which hints towards a deal If in depth research was devoted to the history of Pakistani politics, it will become crystal clear that deals between the establishment and politicians have happened at critical junctures in times of pressure, dire circumstances and have often been brokered by external guarantors. In 1999, Saudi Arabia negotiated a deal between Mian Nawaz Sharif and Pervez Musharraf allowing the former to go into exile for ten years. The Iranians offered General Zia a deal to save Bhutto from hanging, which never worked out of-course. In 2006, United States stepped in and had a big role in to play in allowing Benazir to return to Pakistan during Musharraf’s regime to kick-start a democratic process. Similarly, Musharraf worked out an NRO to save Benazir Bhutto from various cases. The above crafted line of reasoning and analyses seems fitting in the context of Pakistani politics- a system where cameras and media tell a different story to the negotiations happening behind the scenes. For the moment, it seems another deal has happened. The writer is a student of International Relations at London School of Economics, President of the London School of Economics Pakistan Development Society and Vice President of LSE South Asia Society. Co-Founder-Future of Pakistan Conference. Twitter: @OmerAzhar96. Facebook: Omer Azhar Published in Daily Times, March 12th 2018.