“Pakistan will be destroyed if it depends on India” says Mian Shahbaz Sharif-the President of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). The remark was made by the former CM while he was addressing the delegations from the Youth Business Forum and the representatives of minorities in Karachi. The existential threat identified for Pakistan in the statement due to dependency on India is particularly in reference to the current issue of water scarcity. For the past few years, the issue of water scarcity in South Asia, particularly Pakistan has been highlighted by various national and international organisations. While the NASA Satellite Data unveiled the fact in 2015, that the underground aquifer of the Indus Basin is the “second-most stressed in the world”, the issue grabbed public attention in Pakistan particularly in 2017 after Pakistan Council for Research in Water Resources predicted an alarming situation that Pakistan “could run dry by 2025” if no significant measures were taken and the present conditions persisted.

Since the general elections are now looming overhead and the issue of water scarcity has grabbed public attention, many political leaders have highlighted the issue in their agendas and manifestoes in order to turn the public opinion in their favor. While Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has staged protests against water scarcity in the Federal Capital in May 2018, the workers of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have also staged protests in Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas. The leaders of both the parties, Imran Khan and Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah have raised their voices against the inaction and negligence of the government regarding the issue of water scarcity and have vowed to resolve the issue once they come to power. In accordance with this, the attention given to the issue of water scarcity and the vow to construct Bhasha Dam after coming to power, expresses another attempt to turn the public opinion in his favor by addressing an issue which has recently become a widespread common concern.

Moreover, the statement which unambiguously expressed the unreliability of India as a fellow indicates a shift in the stance of PML-N. Throughout his third term (2013-2017) Nawaz Sharif, with the exception of few incidents where the Indo-Pak relations had stooped to the lower ebb (after the Pathankot Air Base and Uri Attacks), has taken significant measures and has pushed the limits to improve relations with India. At times, Nawaz has faced sheer criticism from the authorities for the pro-Indian stance he held and the limits he pushed to improve relations with the neighbouring country.

Beginning from 2014, Nawaz Sharif congratulated BJP for its impressive victory in the Indian general elections, completely ignoring the fact that a major part of the election campaign of BJP was its explicit anti-Pakistan stance. Former PM also went to attend the inauguration ceremony of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which was the first time in the history of Pakistan and India since their independence in 1947. Furthermore, in December 2015, Modi paid a surprise visit to Pakistan where he visited the personal residence of Nawaz and attended the wedding of his granddaughter, breaking the tradition of the past decade in which no Indian premier had visited Pakistan. However, the most serious incident which gathered Nawaz a serious backlash and severe criticism from the public, political parties, national media and the Army was his statement in May 2018 in which he accepted the allegation that a non-state militant organisation from Pakistan had been involved in the Mumbai attacks. Due to this statement, it was considered that Nawaz had crossed all the limits in explicitly upholding his pro-Indian stance, even if it was meant to be anti-Pakistan.

However, since Nawaz has been disqualified and the reigns of PML-N are now in the hands of Shehbaz, he seems to have turned the party’s direction from an explicit pro-Indian stance to a highly skeptic one, a stance that appeals everyone and that can help him win the elections.