Nawaz’s desperation

  • Not so complicated, really

The mad frenzy that erupted in India – following Nawaz Sharif’s controversial statement about the Mumbai attackers, of course – is understandable, but why is the local media still largely struggling to wrap its head around it? With his corruption trial due to conclude soon, and still no trace of that elusive money trail, Nawaz knows he is most likely staring serious jail time in the face. But rather than go down for corruption and money laundering, he seems eager to pick a fight with the establishment, provoke a strong reaction, and spin his downfall as an act of official vengeance triggered by his honesty.

This strategy can be traced back to the GT road rally immediately after his disqualification. Maligning the judiciary and military, despite calls for restraint from senior PML-N leaders including Shahbaz Sharif, was Nawaz’s gambit meant to lure state institutions into a public, and ugly, political mud fight. But it hasn’t worked out so well, has it, for Nawaz himself or PML-N? He has split his own party. Some are coming out publically against Nawaz’s comments while Shahbaz is expected to take a clear position soon as well. And he is to blame for opposition and public criticism, too, now snowballing against him.

There seems weight, therefore, in accusations that Nawaz has been bending over backwards to politicise his disqualification. Being put away for stealing millions of dollars might deliver the kiss of death to his whole family’s political fortunes. But turning it into an inter-institutional slugfest, and posturing in a manner that is appreciated by Pakistan’s detractors, might just breathe enough life into PML-N to live and fight another day. At the heart of this circus is just Nawaz’s desperation as he looks for any party that will make a political martyr out of him.