As per the predictions of political pundits in Pakistan, the ‘Game of Thrones’ is about to reach its conclusion. A triangle where Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is being trapped from three different sides, the troika of invisible forces, judiciary and Imran Khan at the moment having virtually caught Sharif in a cage. Will Pakistan’s Prime Minister be able to survive this time?
Knowing the power corridors and history of Pakistani politics, any politician whose name is once crossed with a red mark from the invisible forces has never been able to survive, that is why my colleagues from the media are predicting the beginning of the end for Sharif. The Joint Investigation Team’s (JIT) proceedings and the mood of the Supreme Court up to now clearly shows that Sharif stands a very slim chance of survival. It is speculated in the power corridors that the JIT over the Panama Paper case will neither give a clean chit nor a conviction to Sharif and his family. The court will pass a judgment that will not disqualify Sharif, but leave him bleeding politically, and result in the call for an early general election in the country. But these assumptions are based on a hypothesis and Sharif sitting at the helm of affairs still has ample time to stalemate the opponents on the chessboard.
History favours Sharif in this case. No one gave Sharif a chance of political survival after the coup staged by General Musharraf and his exile to Saudi Arabia, but against all the odds he was able to come back and won the election convincingly. Following the famous sit-in of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri against the government in 2014 backed by the “angels”, Sharif seemed to have no chance of survival but somehow was able to emerge as the victor. So what can Sharif do to survive as it is not about elections, it is about his survival in politics. Every informed person knows that there is no point holding an election where Sharif is given space to contest, as Punjab, the stronghold of Sharif, cannot be grabbed from him in elections. So Sharif knows that the invisible forces will not therefore let him contest elections. Sharif not being in his party would actually break the PML-N into groups or factions. So Sharif right now is not fighting to save his government, in fact he is fighting for the survival of his political entity and party.
Sharif has everything to lose, while Imran Khan has nothing to lose given the fact he is just a pawn. The prime minister is actually trying to fight the invisible forces who actually call the shots in Pakistan. This has put him in the same situation as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who faced the same challenge and such was the intensity of his rift with the invisible forces that at that time it became a known fact there were two bodies and one grave. Eventually Bhutto was sent to the grave and Ziaul Haq occupied the ‘throne’. Bhutto reacted impulsively without calculating the risk and paid the price for. Sharif on the other hand until now has not reacted on the moves and conspiracies, and this appears to have left a doubt in the establishment’s mindset, as given history, Sharif is not supposed to stay silent nor react while being pushed to the wall. What Sharif has done is that he has dragged the fight deep and gained time that has enabled him to somehow survive as a prime minister.
By buying time Sharif has somehow created a narrative against the establishment in his political fort of Punjab. Since the creation of Pakistan, Punjab always went with the establishment. For the first time in the history of the country the people from Punjab are showing dissent and not buying the propaganda of the invisible forces. Overwhelming victories of Sharif’s PML-N in almost all the by-elections in Punjab is a testimony to the fact that Sharif has eventually become another Bhutto, and it has to be nothing or everything for him. If he survives and his party enters the next elections with him being the face, he will emerge as the most powerful political leader of all time in Pakistan. But to do that Sharif badly needs to counter the narrative being built against him.
There is no point in surviving politically or winning the elections only to be dictated by the establishment. So the best chance for Sharif remains to align with the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Maulana Fazlur Rehman and the nationalist parties of Balochistan. Sharif currently enjoys their support and trust and this leaves the ‘scriptwriter’ of the Panama Paper issue in confusion, as even the ‘scriptwriter’ doesn’t even know what to write next. There is nothing left in the vessel of invisible forces as they have played almost all their cards. Contrary to that Sharif is holding his cards close to him. Another sit in from Imran Khan on the dictation of invisible forces remains the only option through which a law and order situation can be created and Sharif can be asked to go home, but even in this scenario Sharif will not bow down to any pressure. He enjoys a far greater street power in Punjab then any political party and if at any time it comes to the numbers game in the streets, Sharif will comfortably demonstrate his power.
Sharif’s safe bet is to not react over the JIT and court proceedings as in his fort of Punjab his voters are showing their complete disagreement on the proceedings thinking that Sharif is being victimised through judiciary by the invisible forces. As long as Sharif’s constituency of Punjab does not accept the judicial proceedings, Sharif’s trial will benefit him in the long run. Given the scenario Sharif just has to counter the narrative of so-called accountability and for that he needs a good media team to present his case. For now, it is far from over as it is Sharif’s turn to play his moves. Without an unconstitutional move it seems almost impossible to eliminate Sharif from politics.