Nawaz Sharif (NS) is the only politician in Pakistan who has been prime minister three times. However, he isn’t the only prime minister who has been prematurely ousted. So far, not a single premier in the country has been allowed to complete his/her 5-year tenure in office, thanks to our unique political culture and perpetual confrontation among country’s key institutions.

PML-N leaders have started pointing their fingers at the military establishment for orchestrating the ‘Panama drama’ in the apex court to oust their leader NS. Similarly, NS is also now alluding to a conspiracy hatched by ‘the power that be’ to dislodge him. Recently, he severely criticized the superior courts for discriminately and rather harshly treating the politicos as compared to the Khakis. Presently a lot of people are viewing the fall of NS against the backdrop of conventional civil-military confrontation in the country. Indeed, historically, the Civ-Mil relations have been playing a decisive role in the rise and fall of political regimes in Pakistan.

Notwithstanding the repeated assertions made in the country that the civil and military leaderships are ‘on the same page’, the civil military relations have not been perfectly ideal and harmonious during the last four years. There has been a considerable trust deficit between the two. Thus both resorted to a cold war. These relations started deteriorating as soon as NS came into power in 2013. In fact, this sort of Civ-Mil confrontation is essentially a characteristic feature of NS’s tenures in the country.

To begin with, NS’s so-called Indian policy has been the major source of Civ-Mil tension in Pakistan. As usual, after being elected as prime minister, NS over-optimistically tried to instantly improve the bilateral ties with India absolutely ignoring the ground realities. Therefore, he expressed his desire to invite Indian PM Manmohan Singh to attend his oath-taking ceremony in 2013. Later, he himself proceeded to India to participate in the swearing-in ceremony of PM-elect Narendra Modi in New Delhi. However, he got nothing out of this trip except khaki’ displeasure.

In fact, NS miserably failed to realize that much water had flowed under the bridge since he invited Indian PM Vajpayee in Lahore in 1999 to make peace with India. Unlike the Vajpayee, there was a fanatic Hindu Nationalist leader like Modi in India who was best known for his anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan credentials. He never missed any opportunity to harm and malign Pakistan. Moreover, India had also already consolidated its position in Afghanistan to strategically encircle Pakistan.

PM Modi never seriously tried to reciprocate NS’s goodwill gesture. While Pak-India bilateral relations were gradually deteriorating, NS keenly strived to establish close personal relations with Modi. Similarly, NS’s secret ties with Indian steel tycoon Sajjan Jindal have also been a mystery. NS is also blamed for responding poorly to the case of Indian spy Kulbhushan Yadav. It is really regrettable that NS was so friendly and soft towards India at the time when India had imposed a full-fledged fourth generation war on Pakistan through its proxy terrorists. Therefore, the anxiety of the khakis over NS’s India-centric policy was justifiable. This may be the reason they started considering NS a potential threat to national security.

The ill-timed and poorly executed criminal trial of Pervez Musharraf for high treason under Article 6 of the constitution is generally considered to be the major spoiler of the civil-military relationship. The PML-N government miserably failed in assessing Khakis’ sentiments and sympathies towards their ex-boss. Moreover, following the deadly attack on senior journalist Hamid Mir in 2014, the government also failed in performing any positive role to resolve the ISI-Geo stand-off. The government was blamed for titling towards a media house in the name of upholding the freedom of press and freedom of expression.

The anti-terror strategy of the PML-N government has been another major irritant. NS-led political dispensation wasted much time while trying to negotiate with the militants after coming into power in 2013. Having lost a large number of personnel in various terrorist attacks, the army was dissatisfied with the snail-paced dialogue process. Eventually, it decided to strike back by launching Operation Zarb-e-Azab, a full-fledged military offensive, in North Waziristan. Similarly, following the unfortunate APS Peshawar tragedy, the civilian government also failed in effectively implementing the National Action Plan to the satisfaction of the military.

The military leadership has been exclusively formulating Pakistan’s Afghan policy. However, there was witnessed a difference of opinion between the civilian and military leadership when it comes to treating the defunct militant outfits inside the country. The Dawngate scandal essentially showed similar difference between the two. This scandal remained a major irritant between the NS and the establishment during the last months of NS rule in the country.

The Civ-Mil tension started surfacing soon after PML-N came into power following the 2013 General Elections. PTI and PAT launched an extensive agitation movement against NS to make him step down. They accused PML-N of rigging and manipulating the elections. During the 126-day sit-in Islamabad, the ‘third umpire’ remained a central figure, to whom IK was constantly requesting to intervene. However, later, PTI’s Bhaaghi leader Javed Hashmi spilled the beans by disclosing that some senior serving military officers were actually orchestrating the Azadi and Inqalab Marches to dislodge NS.

Currently, Imran Khan is being widely believed to be the establishment’s blue-eyed boy. So the ‘angels’ helped PTI hold its ‘game changing’ Lahore rally on October 30, 2011. Similarly, these invisible beings also instigated PTI leaders to stag sit-in in Islamabad against NS in 2014. One can also not deny the fact that none other than the PTI forced NS to submit himself before the apex court in Panama case last year.

The apex court has chosen to scrutinise NS by adhering to an unprecedented legal procedure. Similarly, to investigate NS, it again employed another unique legal tool after constituting a JIT, comprising investigators from military intelligence agencies like ISI and MI in addition to civilian agencies. The JIT members promptly and pro-actively collected a lot of incriminating material against NS and others. So the JIT report was more a ‘intelligence report’ than mere an investigation one. Reportedly, the undisclosed “Volume 10” of this report just contains the material regarding NS’s alleged involvement in some anti-state activities.

A few months ago, DG ISPR instantly rejected a notification issued by the Prime Minister Office vis-a-vis the Dawngate inquiry report. But surprisingly, the same notification was approved when it was issued by the Interior Ministry. This incident raised many eyebrows in the country. Probably by that time, khakis had decided to punish NS otherwise. Therefore, there is a perception that this time the establishment has opted to oust NS through a novel modus operandi.

After the disqualification of NS, it was first announced that his younger brother Shehbaz Sharif will be elevated to the slot of prime minister. And for the interim period of 45 days, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was nominated as the next premier. In fact, PML-N leaders like Shehbaz Sharif and Chaudhry Nisar Ali are known for their pro-establishment tendencies. However, both leaders have apparently been marginalised as the newly-elected PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is now likely to continue until the next general elections. A number of ministers, who have had anti-establishment credentials, have been included in the new Federal Cabinet. These facts show that the current PML-N political dispensation would actively try to defy the military pre-eminence in the country.

The Civ-Mil tension in Pakistan may escalate in the days to come. Similarly, until the next general elections, political temperature in the country would also steadily rise. Now NS’s political strategy and posture will ultimately determine its political future in the country. PML-N’s ability to mend fences with the establishment will also be a crucial factor. Indeed a Civ-Mil synthesis would be beneficial for both the embattled PML-N and his beleaguered leader.