Nawaz has always been the more aggressive of the two brothers, demanding control over policy-making from the country’s powerful establishment. He stood up to President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in early 1990s, and forced resignation from one Chief of Army Staff, Jahangir Karamat, and tried to dismiss another, Pervez Musharraf, in late 1990s. He remained vocal against the military’s role in internal politics when out of power and attempted to reshape the country’s relations with neighbouring India after returning to power in 2013. The younger Sharif, on the other hand, has never had such aspirations. Shahbaz’s politics is pragmatic; he probably feels that political parties are too weak to take on the powerful establishment and should rather enjoy power within the allowed space. He is not alone in the party with these views, in fact, the majority of the old guard and local electables agree with him. Indeed, the PMLN has always been a coalition of local influential leaders for power rather than a cogent political party with a shared vision. In a recent meeting of the parliamentary party, Shahbaz and his supporters openly voiced concerns over the elder Sharif’s recent interview in which he alluded to the deep state’s failure in preventing the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Nawaz Sharif was also present in this meeting but remained silent as Shahbaz and other members showed their reservation over the former Prime Minister’s stance against the judiciary and the establishment. This made little difference as few days later Nawaz read a statement to the press blaming the establishment for orchestrating his current ordeal as retribution for attempting to hold Pervez Musharraf accountable for abrogating the constitution. The fact of the matter is that Nawaz Sharif understands what Shahbaz does not: reconciliatory politics is futile in the current situation. He knows that the immense following he has accumulated over the last year will vanish if he backs down at this stage, and his politics will end forever. Reconciliation at this point means nothing short of an exile and retirement for the elder Sharif. But things would not stop here. Nawaz knows that the moment the establishment is done with him, it will start working on bringing Shahbaz down, no matter how willing he is to work with it.After forming the government in 2008, Asif Zardari surrendered all control to the establishment in the face of mounting pressure. Not only the military had complete upper hand over its traditional domains of foreign, defence, and internal security policy, powers to appoint government officials and initiate development projects were also restricted by the courts. It was a government only in name and still such acquiescence did not make Zardari’s life easy, he had to face immense pressure until the very last day of his presidency. Nawaz Sharif’s fate was no different after the 2013 elections. Although he showed an initial interest in exercising his constitutional powers over matter of foreign policy, he quickly fell in line as the establishment exerted pressure on him through the 2014 sit-in by the opposition. The more Nawaz acceded to the establishment’s wishes, the more he was tested, until he was ousted by the courts last year. If history can tell us anything about future, any elected leader will face such instability and stress, however willingly they follow the establishment’s agenda. Nawaz is emboldening his anti-establishment stance and is showing no signs of backing off anytime soon. He seems to be willing to take on the battle to 2018 elections and beyond, with or without the support of Shahbaz The establishment will continue to try to dismember political parties by weakening their leadership until they shrink to a manageable size of under 50 seat in the 372 member national assembly. This will prevent any party to form a coalition government on its own, allowing the it to broker back-channel deals between these groups. It is not by random chance that Peoples Party and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, both with fewer than 50 seats, are squarely sitting in the establishment’s corner. When one of these groups show signs of independence, it can easily be replaced with another group waiting in the opposition. This allows the establishment to keep the political system perpetually instable and under control. Furthermore, the establishment will prefer a political nobody for the position of prime minister instead of a leader with a sizable following. A technocrat like Shaukat Aziz or a single-constituency member like Zafarullah Khan Jamali will become the consensus candidates for the top slot, the same way as Sajid Sanjrani was elected as Chairman Senate earlier this year. If local electable think they will have it good in all this, they are mistaken as well. Being a part of a large party offers the precious political commodity of ‘collective action,’ which these members will evidently lose. Weak political parties will not be able effectively negotiate with other stakeholders to ensure resources at the local level. Soon enough constituency representatives will have to rely on local establishment officials to gain development funds and post officials of choice in their areas. In due time, these politicians will have to accept the establishment’s patronage even at the very local level and lose the control they guard so dearly. Currently, Nawaz Sharif is the only thing standing between this ignominious fate of politics. His narrative of ‘vote ko izzat do’ (respect my vote) has attracted tremendous support from the masses, which seems to getting stronger as the country moves closer to elections. Riding on this popularity, Nawaz is emboldening his anti-establishment stance and is showing no signs of backing off anytime soon. He seems to be willing to take on the battle to 2018 elections and beyond, with or without the support of Shahbaz. Whether Shahbaz and his followers grudgingly tag along with the elder Sharif’s narrative or chose to take their own path will have more significant consequences for Shahbaz than for Nawaz. The writer is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Administration at Cleveland State University. E-mail; firstname.lastname@example.org. His twitter handle is @RamblingSufi Published in Daily Times, May 29th 2018.