There is, at least at this point, no doubt that Mr. Nawaz Sharif is neither a Machiavellian prince nor is he Rousseau’s naïve man living in the state of nature. His personality, as a politician and businessman, lies somewhere in between. He gains but cannot sustain.  He wins votes but soon loses hearts. As the political life of Nawaz Sharif confirms, sustainability has been almost an impossible task for him throughout his political career.  And Bertrand Russell long ago rightly observed that ‘it is difficult to admit the impossibility’. Therefore, our premier is struggling and flirting with the idea of love, to hide his incompetence or hard luck – or both.

A closer look at the present political scenario tells us a long story of Nawaz Sharif’s fate and about his political understanding. What did he do at Model Town with the non-violent followers of Tahir-ul-Qadri? How did he deal with Imran Khan during the D-Chowk dharna? What did he do in mega corruption cases exposed by the journalists? And what is he doing in the wake of Panama leaks at the moment?

Before discussing the implications of Nawaz’s political blunders, for his own political career, there are three main things to note. First, Nawaz Sharif believes military is against him and it wants him to face tough times all the time. Second, Imran Khan is not a political threat, at least not as bigger as media portrays him. Third, whether there is a threat by military or politicians or by the people of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif is safe as long as Asif Ali Zardari is holding his hand. 

First, as a student of Pakistan’s political history, I think that military has been – not only for Nawaz, but for all civilian governments – a constant, dire and unchallengeable threat. There is also no denying the fact that intervening into politics has remained the most enjoyable thing for the dictators, and they also have been – occasionally – so cruel and self-centered that they ruined the country politically and intellectually. But Gen. Raheel’s Army has an entirely different pattern of thinking and worldview. One needs to understand that the Army as an institution is no longer eying to topple the civilian governments at all. But it does not imply that Army has no role in politics. It does. Now it wants Nawaz to end corruption. Gen. Raheel has clarified one thing very clearly that there is no space for terrorism or corruption. Now the question is: what makes Nawaz Sharif uncomfortable, Army’s role in politics or its demand to eliminate corruption?

Second, PML-N and PPP still accuse Imran Khan of not being politically mature. This may be true, let’s assume for a moment.  It is very clear that PPP blaming Imran for lacking understanding of Pakistani politics is not as dangerous as Nawaz Sharif following the same argument.  Nawaz Sharif needs to understand that Imran Khan’s PTI is ruling one of the provinces of Pakistan and it is – at this moment –the largest and biggest opposition party in Punjab. Ignoring Imran for being immature and irrelevant is like Nawaz digging his own grave. May be once again!

Third, Asif Ali Zardari is a Machiavellian prince and Nawaz Sharif understands it, but does not accept it. Zardari knows how to deal with the Army, how to satisfy the political opponents and how to convince the masses that they are being ruled by angels. But Zardari and his PPP have their own interests when it comes to helping Nawaz and company.  Nawaz Sharif’s firm belief in Zardarian wisdom and politics is not naïve, but it demands careful examination.

First, Nawaz Sharif is ruling Pakistani in 2016 and not in 1990s. Second, Zardari will help out Nawaz everywhere but Nawaz has to be with him in all rough and tough times----like at the present moment Zardari is not in good terms with the military leadership. This pushes things toward an awkward direction where Zardari is not liked by a powerful military but loved by the premier Nawaz.

Nawaz Sharif and his kitchen cabinet need to reevaluate and understand the intentions and demands of military and the position and significance of Imran Khan in Pakistani politics. Also, Nawaz needs to ask himself: will Zardarian wisdom work today---specifically for PML-N? Without a careful reexamination Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N may face some harder and more challenging times. And it is not necessary in politics that you always come out of dangers safely. But Nawaz’s dilemma is that he does not want to think about, or face, these realities.