LAHORE - Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi says the next general election will be held in July - after the PML-N government serves out its mandated five-year term. All leaders of his party claim that the PML-N will be voted to power once again on account of its government’s services during the current term.

Opposition parties like the PTI and PPP, however, insist that the PML-N government failed to deliver, because of which it stands no future. Both these parties claim that they will sweep the election.

Since the election is still about six months away and any eventuality during the intervening period may change voter’s mind, it is difficult to speculate at this juncture as to which party will ultimately carry the day. However, one thing can be said without the fear of contradiction that more unrest and instability will be witnessed after the new election, no matter which party wins.

Let’s try to discuss all likely scenarios.

The first is the PML-N’s victory.

At present the party is taking on the judiciary and the establishment. The PML-N is not accepting the Supreme Court’s decision to disqualify Nawaz Sharif and initiation of references against him and other family members.

When the new government takes over in August, Mian Saqib Nisar will be the Chief Justice of Pakistan. He will retain the post till January next year.

Needless to say that at present the PML-N leadership and Mian Saqib Nisar are poles apart and what the latter adorns is reviled by the former.

Just take the example of the five judges who gave their verdict against Mr Sharif in July last year. The former prime minister has singled them out for criticism, and a former information minister Pervaiz Rashid said in a recent interview with this newspaper that the apex court, excluding the five judges, should re-examine the verdict against Nawaz Sharif to redress his grievance. According to him, the party is holding consultations with constitutional experts on this important point.

Apparently, when the former prime minister’s review petition was also dismissed by the apex court, he is left with no constitutional remedy and has to digest the verdict, no matter how reluctantly.

The bitter criticism of the five judges by the PML-N leadership notwithstanding, the CJP is all praise for the same bench. At a recent ceremony he likened those judges to jewels and diamonds without which the composition of the apex court was not complete.

How will the PML-N government and the CJP co-exist? They can’t, and the situation will remain tense.

The tension is expected to go up further when Asif Saeed Khosa dons the CJP’s mantle on January 18, 2019. He will stay in office till December 20, 2019.

Justice Khosa is the one who had likened the Sharif to godfather, a title that the three-time prime minister thinks is offensive.

The PML-N will not be comfortable with the apex court during Justice Khosa’s tenure.

But more disturbing for the PML-N will be the fact that it will get no respite even after Justice Khosa’s retirement. He will be succeeded by Justice Gulzar Ahmed as the CJP and his term will start from December 21, 2019 and continue till 2022.

Justice Gulzar is also among the judges who had ruled against the former prime minister – and thus intolerable.

The alleged role being played by the establishment against the Sharifs is also unacceptable for the PML-N leadership. Nawaz Sharif recently alleged at a news conference that efforts were being made to impose on the people the very same elements rejected by the electorate. He also threatened to expose behind-the-scene conspiracies being hatched against his party. With the wounds of the Dawnleaks still fresh in the minds of the PM-N leadership, this allegation also shows that unless there is some miracle or a sea change in the situation the party’s relationship with the establishment will also not be smooth even after the election.

The PML-N leadership is also not comfortable with the new NAB chairman, who will stay in office till October 2021.

Coupled with all this, when the opposition parties played their role, the working of the new PML-N government would be more difficult.

Now let’s assume the PTI is voted to power in 2018 election.

This will land the PML-N and the PPP in greater trouble.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan has repeatedly said that he would take all corrupt to task – and he uses very strong words against both these parties and their leaders.

The PTI’s rule at a time when the judiciary and the establishment are also against the PML-N will mean a tough time for this party.

And the PML-N as an opposition party will also try to teach the PTI a lesson, no matter what the cost.

The third scenario is a PPP-led setup, which is out of question in the prevailing situation.

There is, apparently, no possibility of the PPP being voted to power at the federal level, though it is expected to maintain its hold on Sindh.

The fourth scenario is a coalition between PML-N and the PPP to deal with the PTI.

No coalition between the PML-N and the PPP is possible, especially when Punjab Chief Minister (the party’s future candidate for prime minister) says he is determined to recover the looted wealth from Mr Zardari.

The remaining parties are only regional in nature and they are not in a position to play a decisive role.

Hence, all the above-mentioned scenarios mean that the country will be facing a difficult situation even after the new election, regardless of which party wins.