Let’s consider scenario number one.
For five years, Nawaz Sharif waited patiently while Pakistan Peoples Party completed its tenure at the centre. After initial sniping and botched attempts to undo one another, both parties decided to live under a policy of “reconciliation” and joined hands whenever there was a threat from the powerful establishment. PML-N was always the party in waiting and the sudden rise of Imran Khan after October 2011 forced it to pace up on signature mega projects. But it never really saw Imran Khan as a real contender to the seat of power in Islamabad. In the May 2013 elections, the business and industry sector, battered by power outages, saw more benefit in siding with Nawaz than with an inexperienced Imran. The public, by and large, felt the same and handed Nawaz a comfortable majority in the parliament. Nawaz conquered the country from where he was thrown out by the military.
Now back in power, Nawaz feels invincible. Years of exile have shaped him, altered him —he has come of age. Nawaz now has bigger ambitions and clarity of purpose. The notion of civilian supremacy is even more ingrained in his mind. The thumping electoral win is a validation. The military, always the overbearing and overarching presence, must focus on what a military must focus on. The Musharraf years sank the public perception of the military; even as Kayani put it back on the mend, it will always be hamstrung and unable to orchestrate another coup. Nawaz and his inner clique banked on this calculation. On the east, lies India with immense possibilities of business and profit. Nawaz thinks like an entrepreneur. Kashmir was already left on the cold burner under Musharraf and can be sidestepped with ease. The military will grumble, but not boil over. Afghanistan is a cause of instability and needs addressing. Nawaz feels there should be a rapprochement on both of these borders. And within these borders, Musharraf needs to be punished.
So, Nawaz forges ahead. Meanwhile, his inner coterie becomes increasingly dismissive and sarcastic of others — both toward civilian politicians and military generals. The civilian opposition has been neutralised, but the military establishment retains its core power and ability to exercise it. There is resentment and anger within the ranks. The institution cannot be maligned, they stress. The narrative being built by Nawaz is against the core interests of the institution and the state. They helped Nawaz get the majority on the night of the elections when Imran’s tide seemed to be on full swing. The Deep State was at works that evening. It is now time to pull the plug. Imran is asked to rally his hypnotised youth. The experience of the 2009 Long March provides the blue print: more people, more power. But Imran bungles up. He cannot manage and handle the details. The required numbers don’t add up and other political parties are unmoved by his rhetoric. The promise of August 14th fizzles away. But Imran cannot be left bleeding. After he himself loses hope and goes back to sleep in Bani Gala, he receives an expression of support and the logistics of that support. So Imran picks himself up and even though he looks and sounds like a lunatic, he keeps going. Tahir-ul Qadri is asked to bolster Imran. Qadri wanted the generals to meet him at Lahore Airport in July but in August, one of them reaches out to him. Qadri obliges. In synchronised words and steps, both breach the Red Zone and camp outside the parliament, threatening to breach even further. Inside, troops of the mythic 111 brigade are already stationed. Nawaz is checkmated. It is just a matter of time.
Consider the second scenario.
Imran Khan is the man who has achieved whatever he has aspired and aimed for. No body thought he could make it to the national team. He made it and won the 1992 World Cup. Nobody thought he could make the country’s first cancer hospital. He did it. Nobody thought he would survive in politics; that he would always writhe on the sidelines. He emerged as a political force in the 2013 elections. In the run-up to the vote, he saw people vying for change. He saw a revulsion with the status quo. People, the poor and the rich, the provincial and the urbane, saw him as the agent for change. He was to be the next Prime Minister. Imran has always been the man with a deeply ingrained sense of self. The winner, wronged by the forces of the status quo. And these wrongs cannot be addressed in the system that the status quo perpetuates. He decides to once again do what no one else thought he could. But people did not join him in the droves he expected. There is stagnation and inertia and he needs to push harder. He will not bend, and he will not compromise. People will come around, just like they did in the past two decades. He has already sensed a weakness in the Nawaz camp and will keep holding Nawaz’s neck until it snaps.
Tahir-ul Qadri also feels wronged. He was always the talented one, the educated one, the blessed one. He wants to spread these blessings. He hates the Sharifs because they shunned him as a mere preacher. He is much more than that. He is a visionary. He is a messiah. Since leaving Pakistan, he has built a network around the world. It is financially stable and it is theologically and intellectually sounder than the corrupt politicians and their corrupt system. Nobody can be a bigger Lenin or Marx, Qadri himself says. Qadri has learnt a lesson from 2013. This time he will not back down. 14 of his people were killed by the Sharifs because they too know that he will not back down. So what if Imran has launched his struggle side by side? Both of them can stay together, strengthen themselves till Nawaz falls. Then, they will fight it out amongst themselves. Qadri feels his cadre is more resilient and tenacious. Imran’s cadre will sing and dance and tire itself. The army will have to stand with the power of the people.
Nawaz is checkmated. It is just a matter of time.
But consider this; this is not a simple game of Chess. It is a variant. It is a game of Kriegspiel (where two players play the game, unaware of the move of the other’s piece— and in the presence of a referee). And whenever one of the players makes an illegal move, the referee will come to the fore, and say ‘impossible.’
The writer is a member of staff.