The Supreme Court (SC) decision – disqualifying Nawaz Sharif from his position as party president – although an expected one was surprising nonetheless. It’s severity has startled many commentators, and its effect - limited as it is to keeping Nawaz Sharif the de facto leader of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) where he was the official leader before – has far reaching consequences. We must not underestimate the strong impact of the SC decision, and the extraordinary political situation that results from it.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) would not be celebrating today if it could see the unintended effect that every SC judgment against Nawaz has; every time the SC rules against Nawaz, we see an upsurge in his popularity in the polls – which has been amply demonstrated in recent by-elections and rallies. It is indeed a bittersweet irony that perhaps, Nawaz Sharif, while he was premier, could have foreseen the decline of PML-N’s popularity had he remained PM. However, his disqualification and the particular events surrounding the Avenfield investigation had proven to be a blessing in disguise.

Before Panama, Nawaz Sharif was presiding over a declining party, with PTI gaining ground an momentum everyday Now, as he is being forcibly distanced from politics he has been handed a golden ticket to popularity; a clarion call to rally his supporters behind. We have witnessed this; PML-N voters are coming out for him now, more than ever. This was proven in Lodhran, where PTI’s most trusted lieutenant couldn’t win against an relatively obscure PML-N candidate.

The handling of these events has snowballed into the most unique and amazing of situations. It has created an anomaly where the PML-N, being in government, feels like an embittered and embattled opposition. We are not sure who to blame - the SC, PTI or Nawaz Sharif himself - but whoever it is, have created an air of sympathy; they have made a martyr out of a man, who is still one of the most powerful men in politics, and an opposition leader out of a politician whose party controls the Federal and provincial government; and this sympathy will certainly play out in the 2018 elections

It is to be seen whether the SC will realise the paradox of distancing Nawaz Sharif from politics; the further he is seen to be pushed; the more attractive he is to his political voters. The real danger lies ahead; if these confrontations between institutions propel a strong showing for PML-N in the upcoming elections, it would be impossible to keep Nawaz away from a dominant position in politics.