The PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif has actively started pushing forward his anti-establishment narrative in the country. He had constantly been asking “why was I ousted?” since he was disqualified by the apex court in July last year. Now he has chosen to answer his signature question himself – he has pointed his finger at the military establishment to show why and who ousted him. Nawaz has resorted to explicitly naming the perpetrators rather than using the innuendos like ‘aliens’ or ‘invisible forces’. On Wednesday, he blamed and severely criticized the so-called establishment for dislodging him by conspiring against the ruling political party. He, during his hearing in the accountability court, claimed that he had been falsely implicated in the corruption cases by the NAB on account of filing a high treason case against former military dictator Pervez Musharraf. He said that the four month sit-in staged by PTI and PAT in Islamabad in 2014 was ‘planted’ to oust him from power. He claimed that the head of an intelligence agency had told him to “resign or go to a long leave” during aforementioned sit-in. He also said that he had been punished for his unwavering stance on the civil supremacy. Later, addressing a press conference at Punjab House in Islamabad, he read his statement he made earlier before the accountability court. This month, he also made a controversial statement regarding 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that was published in the country’s leading English newspaper. It is believed that this statement is also part of his well-thought-out anti-establishment narrative.

As far as the civil-military relations are concerned, there have been two significant groups within the PML-N i.e. the anti-establishment hawks and the pro-establishment doves. These PML-N doves played an important role in diffusing the civil-military tension in the wake of Dawn Leaks and other political crises during the premiership of Nawaz Sharif. However, over a period of time, the PNL-N hawks have prevailed over the doves, resulting in significant marginalization of the pro-establishment voices within the party. Noticeably, these hawks have been exclusively shaping and advancing the party’s formal narrative following the ouster of Nawaz Sharif in July last year. Due to obvious reasons, now Nawaz Sharif has also chosen to adopt a hawkish posture vis-à-vis the mighty establishment. Indeed, his attitude has been rather conciliatory and accommodating during the premiership. He has been disgracefully ousted from power and declared disqualified for life by the apex court. He has been debarred from heading his own party. His political party is in disarray as a large number of so-called electables are now in midst of leaving the party. He and his senior party leaders are being cursed and attacked by the followers of TLYRA leader Khadim Rivizi. He has been labeled ‘Chor’ (thief) by the PTI leaders, ‘Sicilian mafia’ and ‘don’ by the apex court, ‘Kafir’ (infidel) by the TLYRA leaders and activists, and ‘Ghadar’ (traitor) by the establishment. Now he is soon likely to be convicted and jailed by the accountability court in various corruption cases.

He has already lost a lot. So, feeling no fear in further losing anything significant, he perhaps considers it appropriate to adopt a defiant or confrontational attitude towards the powers that be. However, some people are viewing his recent hawkish move as his typical shooting-in-the-foot instinct.

Nawaz Sharif is currently attributing his political decline to his unfortunate decision to try General Pervez Musharraf on charges of high treason a few years ago. There is little doubt that this trial was one of the chief reasons behind the spoiled civil-military relations during the Nawaz’s term in office. However, it was not the only factor. There were also many other irritants that spoiled these relations. To begin with, Nawaz Sharif’s pro-India attitude has long been irking the military in the country. There has also been a considerable difference between the civilian and military leadership vis-à-vis the counter-terror strategy, especially dealing with various defunct outfits inside Pakistan. The life attempt on journalist Hamid Mir in 2014 also resulted in deteriorating the civil-military relations. Similarly, Dawn Leaks also proved to be a major civil-military irritant. Nawaz Sharif failing to respond to the issue of the Indian spy, Kulbhushan Jadhav, to the satisfaction of the military added insult to injury.

Nawaz Sharif is well known for his typical but perpetual confrontation with the military establishment. It is believed that he has been dislodged thrice primarily for this very confrontation. Now Nawaz Sharif and his party hawks must understand the gravity of the situation as well as the state and capacity of the PML-N to confront the mighty establishment. Indeed, they couldn’t establish the civilian supremacy while Nawaz Sharif was in power. The PML-N is much weaker now. Its tenure is almost over. Its supremo has been ousted and disqualified for life. He may soon be convicted and punished in the corruption cases. A number of cases of alleged corruption and irregularities against its prominent leaders are being investigated by the NAB. The party leaders are being attacked by the religious extremists. In fact, PML-N stands for nepocracy rather than transcendental democratic ideals. It hasn’t delivered anything significant to the masses during the last five years. It has also miserably failed to uplift the socioeconomic status of the ordinary people. So, it will be facing a strong so-called anti-incumbency factor in the next polls. Now a large number of so-called electables, which are considered to be the backbone of PML-N, are also readily leaving the party to join PTI. Nawaz Shaw must also realize that he has been successfully managing to revive his party to come into the corridors of power every time he is ousted in the past as there was hardly any vibrant political Party to confront and defeat him in the electoral battles. He has just been facing PPP which was essentially a scandal-ridden status quo political party. Now PML-N will have to confront a popular pro-change political party like PTI in the future. This party will certainly give beleaguered PML-N a hard time in the upcoming general elections, minimizing its already-dim prospects to recover politically. Therefore, PML-N hawks should realistically endeavour to get some political space for them rather than trying to preserve the ‘sanctity of vote’ or otherwise instantly contain the establishment at this stage.

Through his recent controversial interview published in a leading English daily in Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif apparently tried to malign or dispute the military establishment by giving an impression that it encourages and supports certain non-state actors to carry out terrorist activities in the neighboring countries like India. In fact, it is essentially the same narrative that Indian PM Modi or other anti-Pakistan countries in the world are proactively advancing against Pakistan for some years. So, this interview has just supported and reinforced the terror allegations being leveled against Pakistan by various countries and world agencies. The 37-nation Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global financial watchdog, placed Pakistan on its grey terror financing watchlist in February this year. This global watchdog is scheduled to review Pakistan’s status next month. These sorts of irresponsible statements would make it easy for the FATF to tighten the noose on Pakistan by placing it on its blacklist. Indeed, no individual or institution should be allowed to advance their selfish agenda by defaming Pakistan or damaging its strategic interests in the world. In fact, this clever move made by Nawaz Sharif has been quite counterproductive. He has gotten nothing out of it except intensive criticism, humiliation and countywide condemnation.

At the time when PTI is actively and wisely introducing its pro-people, pro-development and pro-reform election manifesto in the form of its 11-point agenda and first-100-day plan, PML-N is just busy in advancing its hawkish anti-establishment agenda. This ambiguous, impractical and unrealistic agenda will certainty get it nowhere. It will only add to the miseries of the troubled party and its beleaguered leader Nawaz Sharif. Therefore, it should abandon its hawkish policies forthwith and courageously and patiently face the unfavorable political situation. It should wait for the pendulum to swing. On the other hand, the all-powerful establishment should also not put all its egg in the PTI’s basket. For democracy to flourish and function smoothly, more than one vibrant political party is required. PML-N is a national political party having its roots across the country. Rendering it instantly inactive and politically irrelevant would be harmful for both Pakistan and its ever-fragile democracy.

The writer is a lawyer and columnist based in Lahore.

Nawaz has chosen to answer his signature question himself – he has pointed his finger at the military establishment to show why and who ousted him.