The political situation in Pakistan has been changing over the past few months. Major political stalwarts and electable personalities are severing their association with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to join Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in droves. On the other hand, the dilemmas that the PML-N faces continue to grow in with the passage of time.The hearings for cases involving Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, and Captain Safdar were already increasing in the accountability courts when other entities of justice in the country became hyperactive. Dormant cases, such as the Asghar Khan case, are being reopened. Under these circumstances, some people believe that the general elections will be delayed. Ultimately, they believe that if Nawaz Sharif were sentenced to punishment before the general elections, it would be a major blow. The PML-N would not be able to repair the damage and would shatter into pieces, leaving the PTI an open field in Punjab. This seemed likely before Kulsoom Nawaz became extremely ill.Recently, various occurrences have damaged the PTI, for which it itself is responsible. For instance, the alleged leaking of some pages of Reham Khan’s book and the explanations the PTI’s spokesman gave for them was shocking and majorly counterproductive. The public is now familiar with contents of a book which has not even been published. The aftermath of this political blunder had not yet been settled when Imran Khan went to Saudi Arabia on a chartered flight to perform Umrah during the last days of Ramzan. His close friend, Zulfi Bukhari accompanied him. Zulfi Bukhari’s name was on the Black List, barring him from leaving the country. Imran Khan allegedly used his personal contacts to remove Zulfi Bukhari’s name from the list so he could be taken along for the pilgrimage. This whole episode had a very negative impact on Pakistani voters. The voter was made to contemplate how a political leader, who was not yet part of the government, was able to remove a person from the Black List to perform an extremely lavish Umrah. It does not seem appropriate for a public leader in a country which is weighed down by economic turmoil, here every penny seems to come from foreign loans, to spend millions in this manner. It was later declared that the jet they used belongs to Aleem Khan. This makes the situation even worse and raises the question of quid quo pro: no one spends millions on the would-be prime minister for nothing. These kinds of questions are coming from ordinary voters and creating a negative image of the PTI.In 2008, Asif Ali Zardari was without a doubt, not considered popular anywhere in Pakistan, particularly Punjab. However, after Benazir Bhutto’s martyrdom, the people voted for PPP despite knowing that it would be led by himDuring this process, Imran Khan issued a statement claiming that the domestic life and privacy of women had been spoiled by feminist organisations and women’s rights bodies. This had a devastating effect on working women, particularly those who played their part in the fight for women’s rights. Until a few decades ago, women in many countries had no right to vote. Women won the right to vote due to the movements spearheaded by women’s rights organisations. Imran Khan has damaged his party and its politics with blunders like these being repeated time and time again. Meanwhile, news arrived from London that the condition of Kulsoom Nawaz, Nawaz Sharif’s wife, has seriously deteriorated and is now critical. According to the Sharif family, she is now on a ventilator. While Kulsoom Nawaz was in this condition, a person allegedly attempted to enter her room in hopes of confirming whether she was really ill or if the Sharif family was telling lies. This person was later revealed to have an association with an anti-PML-N party. Their aim was to find out if the PML-N was trying to gain political leverage from this situation.There is no doubt that Kulsoom Nawaz is seriously ill. In such a situation, state institutions may find it difficult to hand down stern verdicts against the Sharif family due to the need for basic courtesy and sympathy amongst the public. How would this impact Pakistani voters? This is an important question. To find the answer, we have to analyse voter behaviour. Readers may be familiar with the situation in 2008 when Asif Ali Zardari was without a doubt, not considered popular anywhere in Pakistan, particularly Punjab. However, after Benazir Bhutto’s martyrdom, the people voted for the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) despite knowing that it would now be led by Zardari. This shows that if, God forbid, the condition of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz further deteriorates, it could ignite a spark of public sympathy, particularly among PML-N voters, which could show its impact on polling day.Similarly, if any action is taken against the grief-stricken family before Election Day, it could increase the Pakistani public’s sympathy for them. This sympathy could force PML-N voters to come out of their homes in large numbers on polling day, thus breathing new life into the weakened political party. Currently, the opponents of the PML-N seem to be demanding uncompromising action against the Sharif family. If that were to happen, the PML-N would reap the benefits. Alternatively, if the Sharif family were dealt with softly under the name of sympathy, without receiving any punishment, even then they would have an advantage. The advantage that the party would receive would be comparatively lower in this case, however, than the benefit it would receive if the family was penalized.In both situations, the tides running against the PML-N could easily change course. This catch-22 situation is increasing frustration among the anti-PML-N forces. This frustration is manifesting itself in the form of recent complaints of harassment by PML-N candidates and ever-increasing legal actions against them.The fate of Kulsoom Nawaz in London will have a very significant impact on the political scene and election results back in Pakistan.The writer hosts a current affairs talk show on PTV News. Follow him on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/syedzishanhyderPublished in Daily Times, July 4th 2018.