Seven months ago, Mian Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the judiciary. He felt humiliated and embarrassed and was out on GT Road mustering support from his strongholds. His show at Kharian and Lalamusa had been below power and he needed a major push to show his power to both friends and foes, in and outside the country. He stopped in Gujranwala where he addressed a large crowd that chanted “Mian Saab we love you”. The show of power was seen and noticed in all corridors of power. “My case is in Gujranwala’s court”, he had stated and the people seemed convinced that he had been wronged. MNA’s, MPA’s and local body’s representatives had of course been active but many people had simply shown up themselves to support the cause. Some came for the love of their leader, others to show their affiliation for the party, but the whole city seemed super charged. The show had to be arranged rather suddenly as the PML N supporters had expected a different court ruling, and it would not have been possible to ‘bring’ people if they had not arrived themselves. Anyways, it was not much different from any of the past times when Nawaz Sharif had come to Gujranwala for support. He has always been loved and cherished by the crowds here and they have elected him even in the worst of times. Six months later, Mian Shehbaz Sharif who is now the President of PML N decided to visit Gujranwala for a show of power. On paper, it seemed a smart political move to arrange the gathering of the new party President and future Prime Minister in a city which has supported Muslim League since the time of Ayub Khan’s election against Fatima Jinnah and whose semi right wing population still sees the sharif dynasty as the best choice for Pakistan. But when the time for arrangements came, the task seemed harder than PML N leaders had expected. Shehbaz was supposed to come in February and then it was postponed till March in order to make better arrangements. The preparations were done well and under personal supervision of Hamza Shehbaz who visited the city various times to ensure this gathering was a success. The Punjab government machinery was active and so was the PMLN’s local leadership. It seemed that the PML-N was going all in to make this a mighty show of power. Taufeeq Butt who is MPA of PMLN from Gujranwala claimed to gather a hundred thousand people just a day before the event and PML N did spend a lot of energy to make this show a success. When the big day came, and people started filling up the stadium, something didn’t seem right. Yes, the people were being brought in groups by PML N local leaders and yes some were coming themselves from the city. But the ‘walk in’ crowd was much less than expected. Considering that the efforts had been much greater than when Nawaz Sharif or Maryam Nawaz visited, a mighty show was expected, but the love that people show for Nawaz by waiting for him at the venue hours before his arrival, by chanting slogans such as “I love you” and by coming themselves from far away areas was missing. The word in the city was that “Shehbaz is a good administrator but he is no Nawaz”, and Nawaz is the one people want to see roaring. “Can Zardari pull the same crowd as BB?” the PML N youth wing leader replied when I remarked that despite being a good show, the fervour seen in Nawaz Sharif’s gathering is missing. A decent crowd of around 15,000-20,000 people was observed inside the stadium, but the stadium was not filled to capacity and the people seemed less excited to come, then they normally do for Nawaz. There is a lesson to be learned here for PML-N, especially for Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz. Nawaz Sharif has always been, still is and likely will always be the real leader. Shehbaz Sharif will be beloved as long as he is Nawaz’s man. However, he will find it extremely hard to run a movement on his own if a time ever comes. Shehbaz roared today, but PML-N local leadership has realised once again that Nawaz Sharif is still the real crowd puller. Published in Daily Times, March 13th 2018.