The Supreme Court’s verdict contained just enough ambiguity and conflict to leave Nawaz Sharif somewhat satisfied; though it excused Imran Khan, there was enough in it against Tareen and PTI for Nawaz to have taken it and run for political points. It appears however that nothing short of a disqualification for Imran, or a reversal of the Panama decision, will appease Nawaz’s fury against the court, as he once again doubles down on the judiciary for giving a biased decision.
Addressing media in London before his departure for Pakistan on Saturday, Nawaz had announced that he would spearhead a fully-fledged movement for the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution in the country, former of which is directly aimed at the courts. He lashed out against the court in strong terms for bias, calling it a double standard that Imran was acquitted but he was not.
This harsh criticism of the judiciary is a series of a campaign against the Panama decision, where Nawaz and some of his PML-N leaders have constantly spoken against the judiciary, and hinted at conspiracies and threats on democracy. Some expected this strategy to soften after the Supreme Court gave a positive verdict in the Hudaibiya Mills Case but it seems Nawaz has strategised that going back now would weaken his political position. There is still the spectre of accountability courts to contend with, but perhaps muddying the reputation of the Supreme Court will work as a rhetorical tool come the 2018 elections, or if further negative verdicts are announced.
However, it is still a risky move for a man with cases pending before the Court. It was prophesized that the future of PML-N in the elections would be of Shahbaz Sharif, with Nawaz silently watching over as party president, but Nawaz’s consistent anti-judiciary position forecasts that Nawaz will not be content with this, and may be aiming for a bigger victory.
Not everyone is a fan of Nawaz’s confrontational approach. Chaudhry Nisar, who represents PML-N’s main dissident within the party, and the biggest critic of Nawaz’s anti-court line of thought, has termed this confrontational approach detrimental to the country, and warned that the party has to come out of this state of uncertainty and despondency.
The SC’s decisions gave Nawaz a window of opportunity to leave his anti-court burden aside, and instead move to target Tareen and PTI politically. It seems however that Nawaz has bigger fish to fry.