A signboard of confrontation

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  • Road to nowhere

While responding to the court’s decision, Nawaz Sharif, the head of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said “judges are filled with prejudice” and their “anger and grudges have come out in their words”

 

What appears beyond control is the major institutional purge, being led by the SC and politically bankrolled by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), that continues to limit the ruling party’s chances of contesting the next general elections with full preparation, force and focus

 

 

The Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan in its detailed judgment concerning the Sharif family’s review petition against the court’s verdict on the Panama Papers case not only rejected the application but also berated the former prime minister for trying to manipulate and influence the judicial process. The court in its verdict said that “Nawaz even tried to fool the apex court without realising you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

The court in its scathing review further noted that “Nawaz Sharif has been neck deep in business and politics ever since the early 80s so it is unbelievable that he did not understand the simple principle of accounting that his accrued and accumulated salary of six and a half years was his asset and liability of the company he was an employee of.”

While responding to the court’s decision, Nawaz Sharif, the head of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said “judges are filled with prejudice” and their “anger and grudges have come out in their words.” For Sharif, the court is not focused on rendering impartial justice; rather the court is part of a bigger conspiracy that is underway to sideline Sharif and his political party’s future in the country’s politics.

As of now, what should be considered “settled” is that Sharif should not expect any leeway from the top court when it comes to restoring his lawful role back to constitutional politics. In fact, Sharif’s collision course policy of taking on the judiciary has made his legitimate comeback virtually impossible.

Sharif’s political isolation is likely to grow with implications reaching as far as his political party’s future. For Sharif, from here onward, the struggle to jump-start a new role in active politics falls at one point: if the ruling party finishes strong in the upcoming elections, it is probable that a comprehensive mandate may lead to Sharif making some tough amendments in the constitution to cut down powers of the institutions that he is embattling with. But if his party finishes weak, he is unlikely to make any sort of comeback in active politics.

However, there are challenges which Sharif and his party have to overcome to ensure that they are in a strong position going into the next general elections. To begin with, how to keep the ‘Sharif House’ in order with political opposition sniffing for a loophole to intensify debates dealing with divisions inside the ruling party is a challenge that will remain in place in the coming months. It’s likely that Nawaz and Shehbaz may knock some sense into warring young Sharif – Hamza and Maryam – cousins: the only part where the second generation of power contenders may agree to a power grab ceasefire is the very threat of an alleged outside effort to divide and weaken the party from within.

The quandary is that, for many, Nawaz Sharif’s confrontational style of politics is the very reason that even after winning a heavy political mandate, the party is struggling to hold itself together. That to an extent is the logic which the moderate faction of the party has not been able to successfully convey to Nawaz and being the founding head of the party, any dissent beyond gruelling reconciliation does not appear to be on the horizon as long as Sharif’s role remain active in the party. With all its nastiness, political challenge inside the Sharif family appears manageable. However, what appears beyond control is the major institutional purge, being led by the SC and politically bankrolled by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), that continues to limit the ruling party’s chances of contesting the next general elections with full preparation, force and focus.

Even if Shehbaz becomes an approved candidate for the premiership, it’s unlikely that he will remain untouched in the ongoing accountability drive. There are two reasons for that. One, the Nawaz-Maryam onslaught on institutions of accountability are only going to accelerate and expand the latter’s ‘capture and dump’ drive. So far, Shehbaz has kept a low profile when it comes to throwing dirt on institutions just because the Sharifs’ own house is on fire. However, that doesn’t mean his elder brother’s policy of only seeing himself as the party political breadwinner will not make Shehbaz a victim: if pushed hard, the ongoing institutional purge will reach Shehbaz’s neck, for the evidence is plenty – The Model Town incident and Hudaibiya Paper Mills controversy are two major cases. Second, the political opposition will not allow Shehbaz to flex his political muscles: it’s likely that the abovementioned cases will at some point in the next few months retain the limelight.

Nawaz Sharif should stop playing fire with fire, for anything that can alleviate Sharif’s political woes is his ‘back seat’ role in his political party from where he can lead PML-N to another victory in a few months. Carrying a signboard of confrontation will lead nowhere!